13 Hrs

cast: Isabella Calthorpe, Tom Felton, Gemma Atkinson, Joshua Bowman and Simon MacCorkindale

director: Jonathan Glendening

90 minutes (18) 2010
widescreen ratio 16:9
High Fliers DVD Region 2

RATING: 3/10
review by Paul Higson

13 Hrs

Your reviewer really hates to kick Jonathan Glendenning’s 13 Hrs, but – affable, likeable chap that the director is, and notwithstanding the behind the scenes trials that he came up against, I can only take the film as it comes. Glendening completed his third feature film in 18 days on a budget of, well, officially £200,000 – although there are hints of it costing a little more, though not significantly more. The producers interfered. Of course they did, they are ‘producers’ after all. Despite all that, Glendening is proud of his movie, following greater disappointment in his previous venture into horror filmmaking, S.N.U.B.

The situation around these films are not unlike the kind of Old Compton Street deals that used to take place out of Tigon as young aspirant filmmakers like Michael Reeves, Michael Armstrong, and Stephen Weeks left the office stunned at the opportunity to make a film not realising that they were agreeing to do it on a budget only a young aspirant filmmaker would agree to. Glendening’s latest low-budget challenge was made possible with a ten-year old screenplay by a friend (Adam Phillips) which yelped of simplicity but unfortunately was a bit of a bow-wow.

X number of youths, one dark night and an old country house besieged by a werewolf. There you go, that’s the plot, or thereabouts. The film does open promisingly with a daughter, Sarah (Isabella Calthorpe) returning to the old country pile where she finds her father (the late Simon MacCorkindale) pondering his financial concerns, and an errant wife. Two brothers, a half-brother, an ex-boyfriend, his girlfriend (also her best friend), and one more mate for not so good luck, are meanwhile partying in the barn. She joins them and, in between swigs and tokes, we are subjected to several minutes of dull banter.

A storm whips up, and something on all fours hurtles around the house. When the ‘beautiful’ young things take their party back to the house, they find father’s shredded mess of a corpse in the four-poster, and the doomed generation are trapped upstairs. They retreat further upwards into the attic and the creature catches up with them one by one. There is in-fighting across class and familial lines.

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The slow and brutal disintegration of a family unit over the length of a movie is in the script design and could admittedly be interesting, but once MacCorkindale is reduced to blood and bones, it is difficult to give a jot about the fate of the other characters.

The lads look like boy-band rejects and the girls almost as routine. The only response is indifference and one is prone to zone out watching the movie. The cruel collapse of a family is familiar theme in horror film and fiction, most notably in Poe’s poetic fantasy The Fall Of The House Of Usher. Later, more brutalistic deconstructions of the family include the notable film and book of Burnt Offerings, George McCowan’s Frogs, Oliver Stone’s Seizure, and the Richard Haigh (Laurence James) novel The Farm.

What makes those films more interesting, apart from the accepted shared fatalistic theme, is that the affected families’ composition is not unlike a real family, intergenerational, uncles, aunts and in-laws if need be, but also the fates are peculiar and varied. 13 Hrs’ young cast appear to fit Simon Cowell’s strict criteria for what we want, and are bereft of real character. The scenario is too basic and therefore has little allure. A great chunk of the movie is taken from the creature’s point of view, the stalking of the young peeps and their evasion of said beastie. It is not enough. The viewer is instead given the time to mull on the direction of the story and even work out the identity of the monster.

The story of the making of the film and the interference by the producers is likely to make for a more fascinating tale and, to be honest; a full account of the production hassles might be the one thing that might benefit the film when viewing. I caught the film at Manchester’s Grimm Up North horror and sci-fi film festival so I cannot vouch for any commentary on the DVD (the film was unfortunately released the same weekend that Simon MacCorkindale died), but given the concerns of the director in criticising the producers too publicly then I doubt the commentary on the current release would be open enough to entertain as much as the making story would.

The closing shot of the film, for example, in which a character thought by the audience to be dead, gasps back into life – is merely an outtake with the actor exhaling having held is breath for his corpse shot, the director’s cry of ‘cut’ removed. This was a decision made by the producers without the director’s consent or knowledge. The journey by the cop and the hunter to the manor house is a tribute to Scatman Crothers’ journey to the Overlook Hotel in The Shining and, contrary to the build up, naturally, they a suddenly dispatched on arrival. This homage can be read into the finished sequence but the director admits that the strict schedule, low-budget and insufficient takes and footage left the deaths a kerfuffle when they should have been a major shock. The bald cap used late in the movie is involved in close-up shots which linger too long on the details resulting in the notice of the strategic smearing of fake blood to hide the join and billowing of the rubber as the wearer moves their neck.

Despite all this Glendening and crew show technical skill and proficiency; it is such a pity that it was hurried and wasted on a weak script. With an improved script, more time and less interference from silly producers, I expect better films to come from this director.