US remakes of Asian movies aren’t always the best way to do the originals justice, but Daniel Stamm’s horror drama thriller 13 Sins is more than just a great flick and an improvement over 13: Game of Death.
(USA 2014, director: Daniel Stamm)
Salesman Eric Brindle loses his job and gets a mysterious phone call which gives him the opportunity of a lifetime to win the money that will secure his family’s future if he participates in 13 challenges.
The capital sin most horror movies commit is to introduce characters in the first 30 minutes and one has to wait until something actually interesting happens. Then there’s the typical downtime and some disappointing ending. But this movie avoids all these trapfalls.
Characterization is kept simple and if one wants to sum up the plot development, there’s not much but having the protagonist running, stumbling and also falling to his next challenge, while the mysteries of who’s behind this stay in the background. Comparisons to the Saw series are not to be ignored, and even if the term torture porn was and is an overused and often inappropriate one, it can’t be denied that there’s a certain wickedness about the challenges and voyeurism on the part of the audience.
Despite a 16+ age certification in Germany, the violent scenes are quite gory and disgusting, so it’s definitely not a movie for the squeamish. But like Saw, it’s the fascination of how far one would go in order to achieve certain goals, in this context money one is in desperate need of. It becomes a bit questionable why the challenges should represent 13 sins, as this is never explained and they seem quite random, so it’s not really as developed a plot as Se7en presents. But almost each poses a moral dilemma, starting small and then getting more existential.
However, the movie shouldn’t be taken as an ambiguous morality tale. Being more a thriller than a horror movie with lots of black humor, 13 Sins works extremely well, which simply has to do with its slick pace and no unnecessary dialogues, scenes or characters (even if those who are there aren’t very memorable). The twist at the end (after many others) also work despite a certain predictability. Unlike the original Thai movie that had a very anti-American but also rather silly ending, this one is just right with a satisfying, touching conclusion, therefore making it the preferred version to watch, something not many remakes achieve.
The picture quality of the BD release is quite good, but due to its indie roots, there are some scenes which look worse than others. Still, it has a nice grainy feel to it, while the thumping soundtrack is particularly good with great sound effects as well. What’s also interesting about the BD release is the inclusion of “Anatomy Of A Meltdown”, in which a Skype conversation between the German director and his writer can be seen, the latter not being particularly happy about the exclusion of a scene (that can still be found in the deleted scenes section). Of course there’s the typical audio commentary, making-of and trailers treatment, but this one stands out, showcasing an honesty to deal with the editing process not many directors/writers would be happy about sharing with their audience.
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