13 SECONDSRavencroft Cinema

“Blasphemy is just so damned convenient.”

The members of the band Night Gallery have set up to record their third disc in an abandoned…whatever it is (the back of the DVD cover says a schoolhouse, but it’s mentioned in the movie that it was an old silent theater house, so you’re guess is as good as mine), along with a sound engineer and a couple of girls. When night falls, though, weird things start to happen: Monsters in straight jackets with what appears to be tourettes syndrome and wielding axes come after them, blood appears on the walls, paintings predict the group’s demise, doors bang shut, people are sliced n’ diced, and then Satan shows up. The end.

To say that this movie was badly executed would be like saying that Mozart tinkered around with the piano. 13 Seconds is a prime example of a horror fan trying to make a horror movie with exactly zilch knowledge on how to make one. Let me run through these: First off, the whole thing looked like it was shot directly to a video camera, which made it seem like a porno rather than a horror movie. Seriously, if everybody suddenly got naked for no reason and started having sex, I wouldn’t have been surprised (GIRL: “My, what a big axe you have! Can I touch it?” MONSTER: “Um, okay…” *wa-ka-ka-ka-wa-ka-ka-ka*). Fortunately, everyone kept their clothes on the entire 90 minutes (sorry, skin hounds), so this gains a couple of points for not resorting to that tired old exploitation angle. Secondly, the sound quality was so low, I had to turn up my television almost to the very loudest it could go, and even then I could barely make out what was being said. Not that I would have missed much, as what dialogue I did catch was ruined by the worst acting I’ve ever witnessed. Mind you, I said the worst, as it was in a class all by itself. I don’t think any of the “actors” here did any kind of acting before in their lives, and if they did, it probably was only during their elementary school days.

Style-wise, it’s like someone grabbed a “Horror Movies For Dummies” and crammed every single horror movie device in here- Abandoned building…check. Pitch-black night….check. Really, really heavy fog…check. Creepy woods with hidden evil…check. Cryptic symbols and words written in blood on the walls…check. Doors slamming shut for no apparent reason…check. Axe-wielding monsters…check. Demon possession…check. A meat locker filled with hanging bodies…check. A Ouija board scene…check. Mysterious shifting paintings…check. Ghostly voices captured on tape…check. Satan showing up…check. Unexpected twist ending…*sigh* check. And I’m sure I’m missing other ripoffs as well. Oh, and there’s also an Aliens-like chase through the ventilation system, now that I think about it…

To tell the truth, that ending itself was pretty good. I didn’t see it coming. And considering I was eyeballing the stop button on my DVD player throughout the movie, I almost didn’t see it. To tell the truth, 13 Seconds would have been a very good psychological horror fest, had there been, say, a budget, competent actors, effects that didn’t come straight from the Spencer’s Gifts’ Halloween sale, and more than that irritating Casio keyboard for a musical score. Jeff Thomas (who wrote, directed and stared in this thing) does have an eye for horror, but his first attempt falls flat…