13 Sins (2014): Blackly Comic Puppet Theatre

Film Poster for 13 Sins

The 2014 film 13 Sins is a remake of the 2006 Thailand comedy/horror film 13 game sayawng, aka 13:Beloved. This blackly comic variation of extreme puppet theatre, where someone else is pulling the strings, is just this side of brilliant; the plot twists and turns and the ending is clever.

Directed and partially adapted by Daniel Stamm (Necessary Death, The Last Exorcism), 13 Sins stars Mark Webber (Laggies, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Tom Bower (The Hills Have Eyes, Crazy Heart), Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Drive), Devon Graye (Husk, Legendary) and Rutina Wesley (True Blood, The Perfect Guy) and follows Webber’s character through his trials and tribulations.

The plot, like the original film, is about a salesman, Elliot Brindle; a Wilbur Milquetoast type of chap, who is fired from his insurance sales job for not being ruthless enough. His job helps him to support his mentally challenged brother and was allowing him to help pay for his wedding to Shelby (Wesley). His aging father is in poor health and on the day Brindle is fired, he learns that the bank means to foreclose on his dad’s house.

Elliot’s life is in meltdown. His father (Bower) is a racist and miserable old curmudgeon who despises both his sons. As Brindle is trying to pull everything together he gets a cell phone call offering him $1,000 if he kills the annoying fly in his car. Elliot swats the fly and is told that the money has been deposited into his bank account and that a larger amount will be deposited if he eats the dead fly.

Rushing home Brindle checks his account online and sees the money there. He immediately swallows the fly and another amount is instantly put in his account. Hooked, the desperate man agrees to play a game that has 13 challenges; each more horrific than the last. At the end of the game if Elliot wins he gets millions of dollars and his “crimes” are covered up so he will face no charges or jail time.

If he loses, or forfeits a challenge the money he has already won is taken away and he will be arrested…or worse. Part of the rules are that he cannot tell anyone about the game, try to discover who is running the game, or attempt to learn the origins of the game. Another rule that becomes apparent later is that he is not the only player. This means he must complete all his challenges before the other contestant or he loses.

Without seeing the Thai original it is difficult to compare the two films. Looking at 13 Sins “on its own” reveals a movie that uses black comedy to brilliant effect. There is also a good dose of irony and a certain tongue-in-cheek quality to Stamm’s film. The German director did a brilliant job on his 2010 combination “found footage” and “mockumentary” film The Last Exorcism and it is nice to see that he can step up his game, even if it is for a remake.

13 Sins is an entertaining fast-paced film. The action goes quickly enough that there is almost not have enough time to finish wincing, or doing that horrified giggle reaction to some incident, before the next challenge is introduced and completed. Webber owns this film and his increased character growth makes the movie work brilliantly.

This is a real 4 out of 5 stars, a whole star is lost because it is, after all, a remake. It is streaming on US Netflix at the moment and definitely worth watching. The original can be seen on Amazon which is where this reviewer will be heading shortly.

Chocolate (2008) Thai Martial Arts Film

I fell in love with the star and this film when I first watched it. Its a superior martial arts film and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

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