SciFridays: “13 Sins” (2014)

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Baddie – America’s class system.

Lesson – If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This movie begins with an old man telling disgusting limericks at some sort of awards dinner. He’s apologetic, but not so sorry as to refrain from severing a woman’s finger and wrapping it in a napkin. A security job actually does his job, the old man’s cell phone rings ominously as he dies from a gunshot wound. What a fantastic start.

I know from the description that there’s a game show involved. I know from the slow pan of a map with little thumbtacks in the shapes of skulls and dollar signs, accompanied by dates ranging over at least a hundred years, we’re probably dealing with something supernatural, maybe even…the devil?

Judging by the soul crushing events that happen to whom is presumably our protagonist (Elliot) – he gets fired from his job for having morals, which he needs because he’s getting married to his pregnant fiancee, and he has a mentally disabled brother who needs to stay under the insurance to continue living at home. He also has a racist old dad in assisted living, but he’s being evicted too, and will have to move home. The racist part is important, because the protagonist is marrying a black woman, and his baby will be biracial. We also find out that Elliot has a ‘useless’ degree, Mythology. It’s…it’s awful, especially speaking as an unemployed grad who has crippling college debt, hits a little hard to home. I feel your pain, little man. It’s like a horrible cocktail of tragedy. In any event, he gets a creepy omniscient phone call that promises money for a small task. In this case, killing the fly that’s annoying him. He gets a small cash reward, obviously helpful. Presumably things will escalate from here. He agrees to the remaining 11 challenges (13 in total). He must complete all of the challenges to get any of the money. Buckle up, I’m positive it’ll get crazy.

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So naturally, our mild-mannered morally intact Elliot begins doing despicable things to become financially secure. The root of the issue, of course, is that these things aren’t of consequence to Elliot, so they are comparatively easy to do. The people in his life still suffer, and his ‘challenges’ begin to have unconventional consequences. By the way, Ron Perlman is in this movie, as the police chief. He starts to pick up some…trends. Namely that the same guy (Elliot) is identified for several different…incidents.

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Right around Challenge 7, it gets complicated. He starts to thrive in the adrenaline rich environment, so the challenges and his life context escalate. His environment becomes more dire, so he gets more desperate. The cops narrow in on him. Ron Perlman finds a guy, who’s kind of following Elliot, presumably a prior winner turned conspiracy theorist. He has a trailer full of crazy. In the meantime a bus, chartered by Big Brother Game Show Network, has dropped Elliot off at a creepy motel in the middle of nowhere and provided him a room. In that room is a guy. This is probably not going to end well. It is definitely going to end weirdly. However, his morality and his motivations are still mixed up. It’s not clear cut. He handles himself well after Challenge 8 and 9, but that’s the tipping point. He begins to go a bit crazy, watching the phone, waiting. Waiting.

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I like that this movie doesn’t go super above and beyond. It’s crazy, but it’s plausible, y’know within reason. It’s important, I think, that we never lose sympathy with Elliot, even when he’s going insane, or does something insane. We still, on some level, want him to succeed, without consequence, to redeem himself and be the same moral human being, this time with the money he deserves for working to support his family. But Elliot escalates, believing his life will eventually right itself, believing in the promise that the cell phone brings him that all criminal charges will be dropped, everything will be fine. He just has to finish. I said ‘never’, earlier, but our sympathy turns immediately from pity and back to sympathy as he wrestles with the last threads of his morality. Elliot is super desperate, but he’s crazy, too. He’ll do anything. One small thing brings him back, and a larger one pushes him back into crazy. Challenge 13 awaits.

You should know that the end of this movie is insane in the best possible way. Not in a like, grind-house all out horror way, just in a mind-warping, twisted sort of way. Maybe predictable, but they lay plenty of pieces for you to discover during the film, if you’re paying attention.

In conclusion, this is a solid film. It was directed by Daniel Stamm, of “The Last Exorcism”, and is actually a remake of a Korean horror comedy from 2006. I guess 13 Sins is a funny movie, in the way a person might half-chuckle because they’re not sure if they should be laughing. It was definitely a great watch, I would highly recommend giving it a shot while it’s on Netflix.

Have you seen this movie? Have an opinion? Leave it below! 

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