The opening scene of this film had me unexpectedly laughing. As someone who has attended innumerable amounts of creative writing readings, seeing a distinguished guest get up and recite a particularly filthy limerick and then slice off his host’s ring finger in front of a horrified audience…that was pretty amusing. Sure, it’s awful and messy, but this was definitely an unexpected beginning for what I assumed would be a fairly cut a dry picture. Really, it was supposed to be funny. It’s not just me. Even more surprising, for the first half hour of the film, the laughs continued. Of course, that shouldn’t fool you. 13 Sins turns dark just in the nick of time.
This 2014 release, directed by the man who brought you The Last Exorcism, Daniel Stamm, is slated as a horror/thriller. What it really is, is a thriller with a touch of gore. This doesn’t really diminish the entertainment factor of the film, I just wanted to get that out there for anyone who is strictly in it for the blood and guts. The story follows Elliot, a down on his luck insurance salesman who has a lot of people depending on him. His fiance, played by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley (stars of True Blood must be my theme this week. I’m two for two), is pregnant, and his brother requires expensive medical care that Elliot oversees. When Elliot loses his job, he becomes an easy victim for a faceless voice that invades his cell phone via an annoying carnival theme song, and offers him large amounts of cash for performing increasingly sinful tasks. 13 tasks to be exact, one at a time. The tasks begin small, but it will come as no surprise to viewers whenever the stakes get raised pretty quickly. The plot is also complete with a mysterious back story that suggests Elliot’s father has something to hide, and that someone close to Elliot may be involved in this plot to make him dance like a monkey.
I have to say, this is going to be a short review because this movie was about what I expected, with exception to the fact that I thought it would be a bit scarier. Sure, Elliot’s challenges do get a bit dicey for those with delicate sensibilities; but, there’s nothing here that will have me going on for days to come. The twists, while not wholly predictable, are not shocking. They feel instead logical, which sort of undermines the whole tone of a thriller. The challenge is enhanced whenever the mysterious voice reveals that Elliot is not the only player in the game, which was a much needed external motivator in the movement of the plot. There is one particularly fine moment for those of us who love to see inventive violence in our horror films, but I won’t ruin that for you. I’ll just say, wait for what happens when the Hispanic mami starts giving directions.
One thing is for sure, from start to finish you will wonder “what’s Elliot going to get roped into next?” whether his challenges are amusing, wince inducing, or ethically unsound.