13 Seconds (2003)
Director: Jeff Thomas
Band-mates hit an old abandoned boarding school to record their new album. They never get to picking up an instrument though; instead they live through a night of ghostly hell. Hey, we all have our hobbies!
What differentiates "13 Seconds" from other shot-on-video low-budget horror offerings is the high card that it proudly slaps on the table: an individual visual stamp that screams quality. Director Jeff Thomas definitely has an eye for the genre and knows how to deliver surreal mood galore, a tight pace and stylish/kinetic shots like nobody’s business.
Watching this freight-train was akin to running through a haunted house on LSD with various creatures popping out of the woodworks non-stop and every known fear trick in the book being tossed at us. "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors"-like tricycle? Check. A "House on the Haunted Hill"-like head shaking ghoul? Check. A "Witchboard"-like Ouija séance? Check. "A Nightmare on Elm Street"-like phone incident? Check. Thomas also came up with a couple of novel devices, with the foreboding art gallery (in terms of how peeps are going to die) being my favorite. What a great concept! And better yet, the execution of it was perfect! GOOD JOB! This film was made by a horror fan, it showed and I appreciated the love for the genre oozing out of it. The film also kicked into horror gear hardcore very fast...actually too damn fast! On the upside, it left me disoriented where I didn’t know what the hell was happening, but on the downside, I never got to know anybody here before the fact.
The characterizations were almost totally non-existent and before I could even say “who’s this dude really?”, I was assaulted by evil shenanigans from all corners. My sentiments towards the players were also diminished to a lesser degree by the poor acting/dialogue. Was everybody asleep at the wheel here? Lines were delivered in a flat manner, nobody ever reacted appropriately to the horrific events, the constant deadpan looks on the actors’ faces evoked laughter and the sub-par ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) didn’t help either. That affected the fear factor of the film, since I was never encouraged to give a duck’s tail about anybody’s fate.
We were also served the usual pitfalls that come with the “haunted house” sub-genre. You know the drill; why does everybody keep wandering alone in the house after the shite they witnessed? Why doesn’t so-and-so believe that the house is haunted even after seeing all of its insanity? And lastly, why did it take until the last block of the film for somebody to FINALLY decide to just leave the freaking pad already! I would’ve been out of there two minutes in with Reindeer Bells on. Or I would’ve at least tried to get out (those axe-wielding baddies don’t fuck around).
But "13 Seconds" made up for its shortcomings with buckets of creativity, well-staged horror action sequences (loved the air vent scene), an ambitious nature all around, an admirable use of the locations at hand (loved the woods scene) and yes...an obvious talent shining through. Thomas had a small budget to work with, no doubt, but it’s all onscreen and he knew how to milk it. Add to that, yummy gory moments and a gnarly twist ending and you get an entertaining, if not hollow, bumper car ride. A word on the clever ending if I may; although I did see something of the sort coming, I really didn’t think that it would be what it wound up being. Yes, I was surprised! That’s rare for me nowadays.
Set your clocks and enter hell via "13 Seconds"!
Lots of red paint graced the walls of this movie with fingers being inserted into one’s flesh, a hand ripping through a chest, a live crucifixion that’s followed up with a gutting, splashes of blood on walls, ripped chest, an impaling and more! I think I’m full! No dessert for me!
Jeff Thomas (Davis) did ok as the lead, although he overdid it in the “intense” stares department. Gregory Lecompte (Shapiro) underplayed it to the point of looking bored. WAKE UP, DUDE! Robert Yensch (Cole) was a robot, the man just said his lines, emoting nothing while doing it. April Cole (Jess) played it safe and underplayed it at the right level; good for you girl!
T & A
We get naked slimy creatures. It's boner time!
Thomas put out a strong show with slick shots (Carpenter and Argento came to mind at times), a horror friendly atmosphere (lots of backlights) with an able smoke machine backing everything up. I did feel that some of the editing was too tight; it almost felt like they wanted the pace to be so quick that they deemed it necessary to cut some scenes short, therefore giving some sequences and the overall flow of the picture, a choppy feel at times. But on the whole, the film looked and felt great. There’s talent here, I hope somebody exploits it someday.
The score was mucho effective in backing the creepy scenes of the picture.
"13 Seconds" started off with a stab, slowed down a tad for its middle section and then went hogwild for its conclusion. In my book, the pace of act 1 one and act 2 should’ve been inversed. It felt like Thomas was in such a hurry to deliver the goodies that he forgot about buildup and characterization. I can just imagine how much more effective the macabre spices and how much more impact the twist ending would’ve had, if I was given the opportunity to remotely care about these people. That’s not to say that this bad dream wasn’t a pleasurable one to sit through. Thomas injected this speedy bad trip with so much horror imagery, creative set pieces, gripping plot twists, relentless action, crazy creatures and slick gory goods that I didn’t have the time to even think of getting bored. This is fun times at the low budget market. Shop Smart, Shop S Smart!
Jeff Thomas not only starred and directed this picture, but he also wrote it. Ambitious is the word...gotta respect that.
Gregory Lecompte (Sharpiro) also produced the film.