13 Seconds Movie Review

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Seeing horror movies has turned me into Morgan Freeman in Seven -- grizzled, embittered and always expecting the worst. Don't believe me? Watch Halloween: Resurrection, They, 13th Child, and House of the Dead in the course of a year and see what you become.

Still, I'm always rooting for horror movies because you're never as alive as when you're scared to death. There's a good reason why small scary movies like Scream, The Ring, and The Sixth Sense became worldwide hits. People love to be scared, especially if the thrills and chills are presented with creativity and originality.

Unfortunately, writer/director Jeff Thomas' 13 Seconds doesn't have either of those qualities. It's basically The Shining built on a foundation of clichés. In the hopes of recording a classic album, a rock band and their employees and hangers-on go to an abandoned boarding school... one that happens to be in the middle of nowhere and haunted by some very unfriendly folks. It's only a matter of time before people start dying in ghastly detail.

Thomas takes the wrong route. Splatter has become a special effects forte, and without a big budget to work with, any effect beyond shadows on the walls looks ridiculously amateurish in 13 Seconds. With a low budget, a horror movie can still be effective. Look at The Blair Witch Project, which projected a psychological terror that had people running for the exits and questioning the reality of what they were seeing.

Thomas, though, never gets anywhere near Blair Witch territory. The characters are poorly written, possessing no tics or personality traits that make them stand out. And Thomas' script has no biting dialogue, probably because none of the actors look or sound comfortable uttering more than two lines. And most importantly, the movie just isn't scary. With the cheap effects, pedestrian and predictable pacing, and less than inspired acting, we get the feeling that we're at little more than a lousy haunted house tour.

I could go on about the endless, ineffective shots that try too hard to set up atmosphere. I could question how a building that's been abandoned for 70 years has a furnished bedroom and a stocked library or hammers and planks that serve as an effective barricade. I won't even get into the ending, whose improbable connection to the plot will have you lunging for the rewind button.

All I know is that I'm still expecting the worst when it comes to horror movies, but I'll watch them anyway.

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13 Seconds Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: NR, 2004

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