AUGUST 10, 2009
I was looking at a movie called Fermat's Room at blockbuster, but had to put it back because it was unclear if it was actually a horror movie or not (according to the IMDb, it’s not. I still may check out though, sounds interesting). Then I noticed 13 Hours In A Warehouse, a title I had passed by a few times after giggling at the title. I read the back and discovered that, like Fermat, it also dealt with a small group of folks in one location, with mysterious numbers seemingly guiding them. And with a vampire type thing on the cover and a boast that it won Best Horror Film at the Indie Spirit Film Fest, I didn’t have to worry about its horror status.
Sadly, the film is the 2nd in as many weeks to simply take a classic slice of 90’s cinema (in this case, Reservoir Dogs) and shoehorn a horror plot into it, much like Necroville’s “Clerks, but with zombies” approach. And just like that film went so far to copy Smith’s dialogue style, writer director Dav Kaufman not only has Tarantino-esque monologues sprinkled throughout, but even cribs plot devices from Pulp Fiction (a valued package where we never see its contents) and From Dusk Til Dawn (the criminals hole up somewhere until their liaison shows up early the next morning).
One monologue in particular sums up everything that is wrong with this movie. Our main guys sit around discussing the career of Robin Williams; one of them claims he is a comic genius and cites the example of how Spielberg would call him while he was filming Schindler’s List in order to cheer him up. He then explains how you can tell if a Williams film is going to be a comedy or drama, simply by whether or not he has a beard (beard = drama). But then he namechecks Jumanji (comedy with bearded Williams) and What Dreams May Come (drama with clean-shaven Williams), blowing his whole point out of the water to anyone smarter than Kaufman.
Then again, maybe this scene is just supposed to make you realize what an idiot the guy is, but since he’s the closest any of them are to sympathetic, I doubt it. But hell, even if so - why would I care about a bunch of idiots? They’re thieves AND they don’t know how to determine a Robin Williams film by his facial hair? Fuck em, let em all die. And to the film’s credit, they DO, but that’s the other problem.
Our heroine is a woman named Jennifer who they kidnap and bring to the locale (more Dusk Til Dawn theft here). She then spends the entire film either unconscious or off-screen entirely. But then once all the guys are dead, suddenly she’s the heroine, and we’re supposed to give a shit about whether or not this cipher of a character will survive. Ironically, the DVD has a deleted scene that not only gives her something to do besides nothing, but also sets up the fact that she is in financial trouble, which would make the ending justified instead of just un-deservingly comic. The scene was apparently deleted because it slowed the film down (as if a 10 minute monologue about Robin fucking Williams didn’t?), so I guess Kaufman was more concerned about pace than character development.
And it’s not a very fast movie anyway; in fact, it’s quite boring. Nothing much happens; they sit around, bicker, and every now and then one of them wanders off by himself and gets killed by a ghost, or gets shot by the resident back-stabber of the group. But worse, the layout of the warehouse is never made very clear; it’s supposedly big enough for someone to get lost or be far enough from the others to scream without being heard, but we only see two or three rooms for the entire movie (without any indication of where they are in relation to one another). You think of a film like Die Hard - it’s a 40 story building, and yet you know exactly how everything is laid out and where it is in relation to other key locales. I could draw you a map of the 35th floor just from memory. Yet this movie, in a (presumably) one story warehouse, I couldn’t even tell where the main room is in relation to the bathroom. Maybe there was a wide shot laying it all out that Kaufman deleted for slowing the film down.
But the most crippling thing is the fact that it makes zero sense. We find out that the ghosts are those of people who were killed there as the unwilling stars of snuff films (this is a plot twist of sorts, but since its spelled out on the DVD cover, might as well spoil it here too). Not the worst setup, but the ghosts for some reason put “32369” everywhere, which turns out to be the combination of a safe that holds a few of the tapes. Well, if they can paint numbers on the wall (not to mention slash tires, swing weapons, open/close doors...), why can’t they just open the goddamn safe themselves? And why are they trying to get their background story through to these guys when they just plan on killing them anyway? It’s the supernatural equivalent of the big villain explaining his entire plot to James Bond instead of just shooting him in the fucking head and calling it a day. I’m sorry, but if your horror elements are kept to a minimum (the traitor guy kills more folks than the ghosts do, I think), then they should at least be solid enough to make up for it.
Oh and the vampire on the cover is nowhere to be seen, but that’s sort of par for the course nowadays.
Instead of a vampire, maybe they could have used the space to list the available extras on the DVD. There are bloopers and the aforementioned deleted scenes to ‘enjoy’, but no mention is made of them anywhere on the packaging. Then again, I guess this thing was rushed onto shelves; where the rating would be it simply says “MPAA rating pending”. I didn’t know you could release a film before the MPAA made its decision - seems like that would help out a lot of horror filmmakers, no? Why trim your film for an R if you can just get the rating later on? Maybe winning the Best Horror Film at the Indie Spirit Film Fest (where it vied for the award against two other movies) can get you some pull.
What say you?