Fueled by Compelling Performances, 13 Sins is a Deftly Constructed Horror Flick


Most of us would kill a fly if someone promised us $1,000 to do so, but not everyone would eat the dead fly for $3,000 more.

In the fast-paced thriller 13 Sins, a financially beleaguered salesman named Elliot (Mark Webber) not only eats the bug, but commits to 11 increasingly weird and violent dares (delivered by cell phone). Elliot desperately needs the mega payout the voice on the phone keeps promising. He’s unemployed, with a pregnant fiancée (Rutina Wesley) and a mentally challenged brother (Devon Graye, excellent) to support.

In this remake of a 2006 Thai film, writer-director Daniel Stamm and co-writer David Birke assign Elliot tasks that are alternately brutal and comic, from torturing a man with an electric saw to hauling the corpse of a suicide victim to a diner for coffee. Stamm brings such a deft touch to these tonal transitions that it’s hard to believe he directed the dreadful 2010 hit The Last Exorcism.

Perhaps he was inspired by Webber, whose performance is crazy good, and so emotionally charged that viewers may be forgiving of a finale overloaded with silly twists. 13 Sins is a trifle, but it does raise the question: Would you eat the fly?

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