A strange mechanical device proves to be a calendar of supernatural events and a gateway to a parallel world of pain and horror. In a plot of ideas not entirely fresh there are few surprises in this story and just about nothing unfamiliar in the first half of the film. Justin Price writes and directs without much new to engage the viewer. The title is misleading because it implies that when they borrow from another film they do something creative with their borrowings. That is not generally the case. Rating: +0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10.
‘The 13th Friday’ (gee, that title reminds me of another film) begins, ‘Somewhere in Texas is a house said to be so haunted that a church was built on the property and the family that lived in the house was never found.’ I have seen only one screen and immediately I am wondering what the quote can all mean? Do people who build churches try to build them on really evil plots of land? Do evil places attract churches? Luckily for the church builder, the family was never found even for things like paying taxes on their lot. Is the fact it is Texas make it scarier?
As the film opens, the camera shows us spooky buildings and the voice of a young girl tells us the legend of the house in the story, but it is hard to make out what she is saying. There is also something odd about self-claiming to be a legend.
The camera goes to a scene of a teenage girl tied by the wrists to a flight of stairs. Her mother comes along and informs her daughter, ‘You belong to Him now.’ She then burns the screaming daughter with flammable liquid.
Cut to some time later. A group of young people are having a party at an evil old house like the one in ‘The Evil Dead’. They go inside and there are evil toys like a doll that turns its head to reveal another face on the back of her head, just like on of the characters in ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. One of the teens finds an antique puzzle ball reminiscent of the cube in ‘Hellraiser’, particularly because each is a gateway to a parallel universe.
This house, we were told, is a legend for evil happenings, but they are happening right now for one girl who got separated from the pack. She is now being held by a demon that lifts her unconscious body like the girl in ‘The Exorcist’. The possessed girl’s eyeballs go white like hardboiled eggs. We have seen this, too, in who knows how many films. There is also a Biblical prophecy angle on the plot. Over and over, we see bits from other films recombined.
Do you get the point? This is not a script that borrows from other films. It takes ideas from other films and forces them into place. The plot, when director Justin Price gets to it, is about a local girl searching for lost people who have disappeared into a K-mart decorated cave that is supposed to be a parallel universe. Late in the film, some tension is built. By then, much of the audience may not care, though there may be some special interest in a Biblical Prophecy framework introduced into the plot.
The film combines make-up and digital effects but the digital effects are not well-handled and the effects seem to be in the same layer as the actors. The make-up effects are a combination of prosthetic and simple greasepaint. The script demonstrates that Justin Price, who wrote the script, is familiar with post-1970 horror films, but he adds little to the field. I could almost accept this film as a pastiche of 1970s horror films.
The actors deliver their lines, but bring little unexpected to their roles and writer/director Price brings nothing innovative to the plot. I rate ‘The 13th Friday’ a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
The film has been in release since early in the year and will be on digital in October.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2017