Elliot is about to have a bad day in HD thanks to Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray
A psychological thriller that keeps you guessing until the end, 13 Sins is a disturbing movie about an ordinary man manipulated to commit heinous acts. Liberally borrowing ideas from better films such as Saw and The Game, 13 Sins explores themes of obedience and control in the wrapper of its brutal violence. Acting as competent genre entertainment, director Daniel Stamm’s film lacks a couple of critical elements which prevent it from ending up as anything but disposable rental fodder.
Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) has just been fired by his boss in New Orleans for being too wimpy. About to marry his pregnant fiancée Shelby (Rutina Wesley from True Blood), Elliot has mounting problems in his life. Responsible for his mentally disabled brother (Devon Graye) and a racist father, Elliot needs money to pay for their care and an impending wedding for himself. Will the man violate his own moral principles to provide for his family, even when it includes murder?
Elliot is at the end of his rope and desperate when he receives a mysterious phone call from an unidentified man. The voice offers him the chance at millions of dollars if he successfully completes 13 challenges of increasing difficulty. The first challenges seem fairly innocuous. Once he verifies that actual money has been deposited into his bank account, Elliot agrees to the game. The unidentified voice includes several stipulations, including Elliot can’t tell anyone about his participation and that if he fails any challenge, he loses all money he has earned.
The challenges posed to Elliot increasingly escalate in their consequences, pushing his morality and ethics into illegal and immoral actions. The voice on the other end of the line uses the game to manipulate Elliot into committing terrible acts beyond the man’s normal sense, eventually ensnaring his loved ones into the proceedings. Ron Perlman plays a police detective investigating the trail of crimes left in Elliot’s wake.
Much like Jigsaw in the Saw franchise, the voice over the phone acts as the primary antagonist. Beyond identifying it as an older man, little is revealed about the backstory behind the voice. The voice does have an annoying ring-tone whenever he calls Elliot, reminiscent of circus acts. We are given hints of an elaborate mythology, but the film conspicuously avoids filling in details about this seemingly omniscient presence that prods and pushes Elliot to ruin his life. It is one of the more disappointing things about 13 Sins, the narrative is more concerned with Elliot’s actions than the wider implications suggested by the voice’s sinister machinations.
13 Sins is well-paced for a thriller and the performances are all on point for a dark tale that pushes at the boundaries of a man’s humanity. Some will be disappointed that Ron Perlman’s role is more for show than anything else, the popular actor’s role could have been played by almost anybody. The challenges show some creativity in their originality with a few nice twists, paying off in a decent climax. The problem is this type of film has been done before and better, so it is more of a rental than anything else.
Anchor Bay/Starz provides a strong presentation for 13 Sins. Framed in its proper 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the 1080p video contains excellent sharpness in consistent quality. Filmed on Arri Alexa cameras, the picture quality is fairly nice for a low-budget thriller. The adequate AVC video encode averages 21.73 Mbps for the main feature.
Consistent clarity is something of a rarity for a small-budget feature of this kind. This is not the ultra-gritty textures of darker fare, allowing a visual experience that doesn’t draw attention to itself. 13 Sins does not skew the color palette too heavily, featuring solid shadow delineation and good detail. The transfer has not been overly processed, and there are no visible halos or serious evidence of filtering.
13 Sins is a bit short of reference-caliber video quality for Blu-ray, though this BD is technically flawless and the overall clarity is very high for a movie in this genre.
13 Sins has a powerful 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack with a smattering of surround activity for more important scenes. More focused on the front soundstage, dialogue is cleanly presented alongside authentic Foley sounds. The score is a touch predictable and laden with typical horror cues. A nice bass presence is situated nicely in a well-balanced mix that does become active in a few critical scenes late in the movie. It is a better than average soundtrack for a movie that is almost direct to video.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles display in white font, remaining inside the widescreen framing of the film at all times.
13 Sins is given an entertaining and funny commentary, a rare luxury in today’s world of stripped-down home video releases. The deleted scene is definitely worth a viewing; it would have been one of the more disturbing challenges in the film. 13 Sins could have been to dumped on home video without a single special feature and no one would have blinked, so I give them credit.
Feature Commentary With Co-Writer/Director Daniel Stamm, Mark Webber, Ron Perlman, and Devon Graye – Ron Perlman is the real reason to sit through this commentary. Stamm discusses the film in a fairly dry and straightforward manner, until Ron Perlman starts tossing out jokes and comments. He loosens the whole conversation up while anecdotes and other insights are shared by the others.
The Making of 13 Sins (08:38 in HD) – Featuring brief comments from a number of players, we get a quick overview in this featurette.
Alternate Ending (02:01 in upscaled HD) – This ending happens to be more open-ended than the actual movie.
Deleted Sequence (05:50 in upscaled HD) – An interesting scene that includes another challenge for Elliot.
Anatomy of a Meltdown (02:42 in upscaled HD) – A Skype recording of the writer screaming about the previously mentioned deleted sequence getting cut from the film.
Trailers for Blue Ruin (01:58 in HD) and Dark Skies (02:31 in HD) precede the main menu.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.