13 Sins (2014) - Daniel Stamm
Elliot is a nice, intelligent guy who is struggling to manage his growing debt. A pushover type, Elliot works as a salesman where he labors to impress his supervisors. When he is laid off from his job, Elliot becomes incredibly desperate, fearing he has no chance of supporting his mentally-challenged brother and future wife. One night Elliot receives a mysterious phone call informing him that he is on a hidden game show where he must complete 13 tasks in which he will be compensated with a sum of 6.2 million dollars. In disbelief about the validity of this so called "game" Elliot completes the first task, quickly discovering a cash deposit in his bank account. This leads Elliot to continue on in the game, with each task growing increasingly more extreme which leads to a devastating conclusion. In the same vein as the Saw or Hostel franchises, Daniel Stamm's 13 Sins is a horror film where a seemingly upstanding citizen is pushed to extreme measures out of desperation. 13 Sins is a much better film than these similar franchises, taking the time to establish its characters and let the audience feel empathy for Elliot who is struggling to take care of his family. The game that unfolds in 13 Sins provides a lot of twisted fun, though like most films of this ilk, suspending disbelief would surely enhance the experience. My biggest problem with the film lies in the ending, which becomes a little too illogical for my taste, with the betrayal between brothers making little sense, especially considering how they are both doing the game for each other. The film wraps itself up a little too well, with a questionable final scene that feels way too tonally uplifting considering everything that has occurred. Thematically the film is very similar to E.L. Katz's Cheap Thrills, a pointed commentary on the corruptive powers of money, though its approach isn't nearly as streamlined from a narrative perspective. Daniel Stamm's 13 Sins doesn't bring that much new to the table, but its inventive scenarios and well-defined character, especially for the genre, make it worth seeing for any fans of this type of film.
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