Horror films are not always known for their intelligence and craftsmanship, particularly in critical circles. “Smart” or “artistic” horror films like The Ring, The Orphanage, and The Others are often treated as exceptions or outliers. This is not without reason, many mainstream horror films tend to be horror comedies or gore-fests that are not always made with skill or respect for the audience. As a result, the genre of horror films might be seen as split between high art and exploitative schlock.
Of course, people who have seen a wide range of horror movies know that such a categorization system is a gross oversimplification, since where would we put films like 13Hrs, which aims to give the pleasures of a well-made, straightforward genre film, but founded on character relationships and atmosphere as well as edgy angles and well-judged effects? 13Hrs, written by Adam Phillips and directed by Jonathan Glendening, may not necessarily be going for classic status, but its goals are certainly worthy.
The plot of the film is certainly appetizing to people with a taste for straight-up horror. Sarah (Isabella Calthorpe) is going to visit her estranged family, along with her friends. However, given the grudges and unresolved problems among this group of people, the gathering is far from picture-perfect—and that’s even before the monster is to appear.
As Philips has written the script, the monster (a werewolf) is not supposed to be some beast that happens to sneak into the house. One of the people in the house is actually the werewolf, and the need to solve the mystery of the monster’s identity is central to the plot. This is not only an interesting plot device, but also serves to bring rich symbolic and psychological content to the story. Here is how we might read this: the monster will already be in the house, and was in fact among the “good guys” all along, and can be considered a symbol of all the unresolved resentment buzzing in the air due to all the buried secrets and grudges. This is not just a lame attempt at depth. Rather, Phillips and Glendening know that high-quality horror movies are about more than just what literally happens on-screen. To be truly effective and frightening, they have to tap into secret neuroses, highlighting things we did not even know we were afraid of.
As the film has not yet been released, it is a bit difficult to comment conclusively on the acting. The actors in this film (except for the possible exception of Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) are not huge stars. Most of them have made their living on TV, or in small/peripheral feature film roles. However, a look at this previous work gives us ample reason to expect good or at least adequate acting from all the major players concerned.
13Hrs promises to be a chilling, entertaining new entry to British horror, perhaps even being a bit of a throwback to the Hammer horror classics, which were a good balance between visceral thrills and skillful, inventive filmmaking.
Year : 2010
Director : Jonathan Glendening
Writer : Adam Phillips
Starring: Isabella Calthorpe, Gemma Atkinson, Tom Felton
Country: United Kingdom
Running time: 82/89 mins.