13 Seconds (2003)

zI8st8GThere isn’t much original material you can inject into horror movies these days, so when I was sent this film, I was pretty skeptical. Though, reading upon it’s merits and numerous awards, I decided to confront this film with an open-mind. Jeff Thomas’ directing is the highlight of the film, it’s not hard to get past the low-budget and realize the film is very well directed. He manages to set the mood and atmosphere down just right enough to keep the audience in suspense and at the edge of their seat. Often, I was left very tense as the characters found themselves trapped in a dark room and confined to the horrifying grim settings of the mansion.

Thomas can really manage to set the mood of dread and foreboding death, often managing to skillfully angle the cameras just right. The coolest parts of the movie are the awesome and creepy paintings that foretold the deaths of the characters. I instantly thought of the film “Night Gallery” when I saw the paintings and grew anxious to discover who would go next and in what way. I’d like to meet the artist who did those paintings. Often times, the film looks as if it’s made on a shoestring budget but manages to salvage the film and create some really cool special effects.

The budget has no effect on the quality of the film, though. Some of the greatest horror classics were made on a low budget including “Night of the Living Dead”, and “Halloween”. Also, the movie does tend to play great mind tricks on the viewer relying on old factory scare tactics like hands popping up, loud booming sounds, and sharp screeching and it works well. The demons are very cool often dressed as mental patients wielding axes and hiding in the shadows. The story is very sophisticated and elaborate, the first I’ve seen in an independent movie of this caliber before. Inevitably, the film takes a complete turn around and creates a great twisted and surprise ending that no one will expect to see coming to them, and it’s a great pay-off and very much reminded me of an episode from “Twilight Zone”.

It’s hard to get past the bad acting in this film. Maybe the horror might have had more of an impact on me had the acting had been much better. Most of the time there’s either someone acting like a cardboard cutout looking like they’re memorizing they’re lines and mumbling their dialogue to the point where it’s almost inaudible, or there’s an actor over-acting and chewing up the scenery. There’s no focus on any of the characters or any emphasis on anyone, so it becomes hard to be sympathetic when one of them gets killed. At times the film tended to get confusing to the point where it made my head spin, going from one character to another with the choppy editing and often off sync audio dubbing for the characters. I must admit I was prepared to bash this, but I was surprised. This is a really cool horror flick managing to create something great from its material. Though, it does get dragged down by the acting, this is entertaining regardless