When a female refugee discovers an ancient demonic device that opens the gateway to another realm, she unleashes a dark entity that poses as her daughter. After many failed attempts to have the church explain the creation of her worst nightmares, she learns that the house is cursed by an enraged spirit that died on Friday the 13th. And now a group of thrill seeking friends unknowingly unleash its wrath and damn their souls.
October 10, 2017
Lisa May, Khu, and Melissa L. Vega
I don’t usually review films I didn’t like, but I’ve got a lot of great things to say about this bad film, starting with the title. The 13th Friday: Brilliant look-alike brand identity and rep-by-association or blatant scam? There were many times during my viewing where I suspect the script was written around this dyslexia-inducing moniker. Lord knows there’s an entire movie subculture dedicated to creating cheap films that look/sound a lot like famous major studio releases. Was this an idea birthed in the mind of an ambitious filmmaker or someone who realized the inevitable misidentification as something affiliated with the Friday the 13th franchise would likely add up to a pretty penny—no matter how good or bad the film itself actually is. And speaking of dyslexia, this movie is all messed but, lacking a central character, a sustained storyline, or a single shred of originality. Writer/director Justin Price did, however, create a film with a unified tone—and it’s dreadful. I watched it with the light on, because the underlying sense of unease it establishes had me on edge.
Before I write a review, I do some preliminary research; in this case, it turned out to be more challenging than usual. Just try Googling “The 13th Friday”. You can’t do it; even when putting quotes around “The 13th Friday” you’ll get nothing but links to Friday the 13th. Add the date to the search, and you might find the IMDB page; unfortunately, the info there is just as out-of-whack as the film. Here the plot summary you’ll find:
College graduates, Robert, Nico, Steffany, and Carla go down to Crystal Lake after catching up on the latest creepypasta of the infamous killer Slenderman…. Turns out they were at the wrong lake.
Yeah, that’s not this movie; and, yes, I’m certain I’m on the correct page, as all other info is identical. What’s ironic is that the description above sounds like something I’d have much rather seen than the actual film. And doesn’t that bolster my cash-by-misidentification theory, especially using Crystal Lake as a setting? It also sounds like the film was originally intended to be an anthology, doesn’t it? Campers around a fire, but instead of the same-old-same-old, they’d be sharing stories inspired by today’s best creepypasta, all culminating with an appearance by the King of Internet Urban Legends, Slenderman himself. I’d have been stoked to see that movie. Well, here’s what I actually saw.
Official Synopsis: When a female refugee discovers an ancient demonic device that opens the gateway to another realm, she unleashes a dark entity that poses as her daughter. After many failed attempts to have the church explain the creation of her worst nightmares, she learns that the house is cursed by an enraged spirit that died on Friday the 13th. And now a group of thrill-seeking friends unknowingly unleash its wrath and damn their souls.
The 13th Friday premieres on VOD on October 10th from Uncork’d Entertainment.
Even this synopsis is confusing because it discusses elements of the film that are, for the most part, peripheral. I normally avoid all plot summary in my reviews, but I honestly believe that, in this case, I’ll be doing you a favor. It’ll prevent you from wasting your efforts trying to figure out what the hell is going on throughout the sloppy, almost stream-of-conscious first act.
The film involves a group of 20-somethings who find themselves cursed when they enter a haunted house. An entity demands that they ritualistically kill 1 person a month over the next 13 months, and they comply, forming a masked & hooded death-cult. They utilize a cave, a killing zone occupied by a trio of hideous demons. This setting is one of the most intriguing and engrossing of the film. It doesn’t make any sense, but it looks cool, and it’s somehow reminiscent of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Speaking of Hellraiser, the plot revolves heavily around a spherical puzzle box—one that opens a gateway to Hell. Sound familiar?
Speaking of “sound familiar”, The 13th Friday borrows familiar tropes and imagery from The Ring, We Are Still Here, The Conjuring, Lights Out, The Descent, Final Destination, and probably a bunch more you might recognize. The film delivers scary dolls, haunted houses, biblical revelations, creepy kids, investigative journalists, and even a lesbian scene thrown in for good measure. The first act is almost indecipherable (literally—that ghost girl needs to speak more clearly). Acts 2 & 3 gives us a main character who turns out not to be the main character; we meet a brand-new character who becomes the main character—right up until the point where she, too, was no longer the main character. There something almost Tarantino-esque about the way new and bizarre characters pop up throughout, best exemplified by the Kenny (played by Joseph Daniel Ellis). He’s a trigger-happy, cocaine-addled drug dealer who somehow holds the key (literally) to survival for the film’s doomed ensemble. He’s a hoot to watch, making me wish more of the film centered on this side-character.
The acting never sucks, but the cast is all over the place and most of the characters (male and female) are 2-dimensional and, basically, interchangeable; the script is often taut, and I appreciate Price’s show-don’t-tell method of storytelling, but it’s a mess. The film’s saving grace is the special effects. They’re way more elaborate and impactful that you’d expect from an indie; they really go for it in ambitious fashion. The opening scene is fantastic, even if it is nearly an exact duplication of the intro to 2013’s Evil Dead. It’s like most of the film: Effective if unoriginal. My favorite moment was when a character is simply gobbled up by the lawn he’s walking on. It’s a simple concept but surprisingly shocking.
Bottom Line: Make sure you read the title before spending your dollar; this is NOT a Friday the 13th movie. If you forget about the plot and allow yourself to be drawn in by the films nightmarish aesthetic, you might have yourself a spooky good time. Indie filmmakers will want to take note of some ambitious and effective special FX.