APRIL 3, 2008
The central concept of 13: Games Of Death (aka 13 Game Sayawng) is a fantastic one (a guy is unwittingly placed in a game show that has him carry out thirteen tasks for an increasing amount of money; if he loses one or quits he gets absolutely nothing). It's a fantastic "what would I do if this happened to me?" concept (a sentiment shared by HMAD reader Chris, who recommended I watch it). But there are a couple big problems that keep it from being a fantastic movie as well, and instead it’s just “pretty good”.
One such problem is the length. It’s just shy of two hours, but the film tries to wring suspense out of whether or not he will do a task as they get more and more morally questionable. We know damn well he will get to the final task, so don’t delay us getting there! Luckily, two or three of the tasks are sort of glossed over (number 12 is one, and it seems to be backtracking: after having him unknowingly wipe out an entire group of bike riders, 12 is apparently “Eat some cow intestine”?) which keeps the film from being OVER two hours, but still, maybe just weeding it down to ten tasks would have helped.
Another problem is a plot hole that is impossible to ignore. He is playing this game and everyone around him seems baffled by his actions. But the game seems to be quite popular as well. Wouldn’t some of these folks know that he was playing? And with all of the cameras around, wouldn’t THOSE be noticeable by the bystanders (not to mention the police who just assume he’s a criminal)? It’d be like trying to sell Truman Show without putting his entire world in a dome first.
Still, it’s an engaging thriller, and the lead guy (Krissada Terrence) is an unconventional hero, which is a nice plus. The movie does a good job of establishing his desperation (financial and personal) rather quickly, so that when he begins the game, we can easily buy that he will go along with it, despite the fact that we don’t really know TOO much about him. There’s also a fantastic (if never quite explained) opening scene with a kid, an old lady in the road, and a bus. You do the math! And the aforementioned bike rider scene rivals the opening of Ghost Ship in sheer “Holy fuck!”ity.
This is based on a comic book I have never heard of, and some of the later developments in the film (particularly the “reveal” of the villain) probably work a lot better in a fleshed out comic than in a film. If it’s in English maybe I’ll check it out. Speaking of, I watched some of the movie in English because reading subs puts me to sleep and I was already a bit tired. The dubbing was strange – in an attempt to match the mouths of the real actors, the dubbers speak in. An. Oddly stilt. Ed man. Ner, rather than try to sound natural. It’s kind of amusing, but after a few minutes I promptly switched it back to the Thai language. And dozed off for a few minutes.
This one comes courtesy of Dimension Extreme, which, after a VERY bad start (Buried Alive and Broken... Christ.) has become a fairly and surprisingly dependable source of good movies (with the best, Inside, yet to come!). It’s kind of ironic that the studio once synonymous with horrible, “filmmaking by committee” garbage has become one of the few bright spots for modern horror releases. Then again, it should be noted that not a single one of these films were made under the watchful knife, er, eye, of the Weinstein brothers.
Also I should note that the horror elements are rather light, and one should CERTAINLY not pay any attention to the blurb on the back written by some broad from Hollywood Reporter who boasts about it being a "Supernatural thriller!". There is absolutely NOTHING supernatural in this film at all. Moron.
What say you?