13 Sins is an American remake of inventively nasty Thai thriller 13 Beloved both of which deal with the fragility of everyday society and morality each concept sitting atop an abyss of chaos just waiting for the right motivation to push it over the edge and that motivation is money.
Mark Webber plays Elliot an all-round nice guy with a very dependent family which includes his loving pregnant fiancé (True Blood’s Rutina Wesley), his acid tongued alcoholic father and his mentally disabled brother Michael (teenage Dexter Devon Graye) all of which rely on him in a myriad of ways especially financially.
Elliot’s day starts with him being fired from his job for being a loser and the home where his brother is staying asking for more money all of which adds to the stack of debts he already has along with the baby and wedding on the way seemingly leaving him with no way out.
That is until his phone rings and a mysterious man informs him he has been chosen to take part in a very special game where he could win millions of dollars just by completing 13 simple tasks in 36 hours.
Suspicious at first not only of the offer but of how the voice knows so much about his personal life although mild mannered Elliot wouldn’t usually hurt a fly when he is told the first test is simply to kill the one buzzing around his car he complies, instantly winning himself a bunch of cash.
Task number two is to eat the fly he has just killed which again Elliot does receiving an even bigger prize. Innocently deciding to commit himself to the game which it seems will solve all his problems he begins a descent into the dark side of human nature as his very moral fiber is pushed to the limit with the challenges become increasingly more illegal, more degrading, more violent and more disturbingly extreme.
There are several horror films with game show premises some of which are trite and terrible like Kelly Brook’s House of 9 but many that work amazingly well such as My Little Eye, David Fincher’s The Game and the fantastic Series 7: The Contenders all of which manage to be shockingly scary and intelligently stimulating at the same time.
Taking the premise and some of the challenges from Chukiat Sakveerakul’s excellent award winning original movie The Last Exorcism director Daniel Stamm makes 13 Sins his own right from its shocking opening offering up a warped and amazingly contemporary twist to the American dream and our obsession as a culture with gaining wealth any way we can.
Like the Housewives, Biggest Losers, Survivors and every other nobody that becomes somebody by betraying their morals and baring their soul (and usually their body) on reality TV Elliot, who is told that he is being watched at all times by hidden cameras, gets caught up in the game and forced further away from the loving, sensible, warm hearted man he once was.
Starting off with cruel tasks such as making a child cry the game gets more and more deranged and dangerous as he goes from taking a corpse for a cup of coffee to a particularly sick set up in a hotel room involving an electric saw all the while being tracked by Ron Perlman’s police detective who slowly pieces together both Elliot’s seemingly random rampage but some of the origins of the game he is involved in.
Making the audience ask themselves if they would make the same decisions Elliot does what is fascinating is watching his character transform through the film egged on by the disembodied puppet master on his mobile.
Mark Webber is excellent taking the likable everyman on a journey into becoming a paranoid cruel and callous psycho only realizing the terrible consequences of his actions when it is far too late to alter their course.
Swaying between jet black humor and unnervingly real horror 13 Sins shines a light on our present day society illuminating how easy it is to turn anyone into a monster given the right motivation, a concept that makes for both a brilliant movie and a deeply unsettling realization about the world around us.