The Thirteenth Film Review by Zobo With A Shotgun
I recently had a conversation on Twitter describing how any film that has either “Friday” or “13” in the title immediately suggests it’s going to be considered shit, even on the lowest of scales. That rule holds seemingly true to the majority of films that boast either word in their title, but as with the English language, there always have to be exceptions to the rule (similar to i before e except after c, that kind of thing…) and that runs true for independent horror film The Thirteenth, which also has nothing to do with Fridays, thankfully.
When Chris finds out his biological father, who he has no memory of, has deceased and left everything to him, he has no desire to claim the belongings of a man that is a stranger in his eyes. After some convincing by the person handling everything, Chris decides to fly to the remote Greek island to swiftly find closure and ensure that he has no other ties to his departed father. He soon discovers that his real Dad was a man of religion and had been investigating a sinister ancient myth that accused the Devil of residing in the desolated town and claiming lives daily with his thirst for souls. As Chris follows in his father’s steps to uncover the truth about what happened to his mother when he was young and why he was left in foster homes his whole life, it soon becomes apparent that myths are left uncovered for a reason.
There are two aspects of horror that will always satiate my palette, one is left best to those with better resources and a little more money, and the other is perfect for Independent filmmakers who want to impress the audience. The first is outlandish gore and exploitation; this can be done on a smaller budget with homemade props (see Headless) but requires a lot of time and effort, which is something not always awarded to filmmakers who have day jobs too. The latter is subtle, suspenseful horror; this is where those with smaller budgets, less resources, and sometimes their parent’s house as background succeed well. There is no need to embarrass with badly made sets and props, and certainly no use for shoddy looking CGI effects. The Thirteenth director Chris Hastings has used subtle supernatural tropes and a suspenseful atmosphere to rip the audience into an unsettling and demonising feature which uses classic gothic storytelling techniques to frighten the audience.
As described by most, there are nods to the classic cinema of the 1970s, such as The Wicker Man, however, filmed on a stunning remote Greek Island complete with labyrinth styled cobble streets and decrepit cultural buildings, The Thirteenth reminded me of the Spanish horror film Spectre from 6 Films To Keep You Awake. Regardless of whether or not Hastings was aware of the influence from the Spanish romantic supernatural film or not, it’s so alike in the look and feel that both films would make the perfect double feature. Something that makes the film feel genuine and well understood by those involved is that atmospheric continuity throughout the entirety of the film, from the music by Micheal Bishop to the editing by Daniel Webb and the acting by protagonist Kurtis Stacey, everything had fluidity and encases that feeling created by the story and the location; helplessness, isolation and fear.
Throughout the film, the audience feels as though they are chasing the mystery alongside Chris, and can feel his desperation at understanding why men in the street openly commit suicide by brutally stabbing themselves. Every scene adds another layer of mystery to the pages of Latin text that Chris’ father has scrawled across the walls for protection from someone that is only ever named as Him, but according to the legend told by the beautiful yet ominous woman Stavroula, has always dwelled there and brought nothing but depression and death. Although The Thirteenth is intelligently run on nervous emotions and disconcerting suspicions about what is really happening on the small island, we are given insights into what He may be; drenched from head to toe in a black oozing substance that resembles congealed blood, with missing humanoid features, it’s clear that the Devil resides there, but why does that involve Chris?
The Thirteenth will become a cult favourite for those who are lovers of not only Independent cinema, but also slow-paced and subtle story-telling which leaves us with more questions with every sun-cladded corner taken and every blood-stained brick road followed. Make sure you keep this film on your radar and grab a copy when you can.