|starring||April Cole, Esa Scott, Gregory Lecompte, Daniel Rain, Kevin Kuras, Sarah Corbin, Dan Rowe|
When you hear the words low-budget independent film, what do you think of? I think South Park hit it dead on the nose when they implied that Hollywood has taken over the independent film industry. Was Richard Kelly’s debut film Donnie Darko really considered independent and low budget when funded by millionaire Drew Barrymore? For gods? sake, she even starred in it! My point is that I can’t remember seeing a real low-budget independent horror film in forever, and getting a chance to check out Jeff Thomas’ 13 Seconds really was refreshing.
13 Seconds follows a band who are trying to find a new place to record. They go to this house, which turns out to be more than they expected it to be. The members and their girlfriends are slowly picked off while paintings in an art gallery depict the murders before they happen. Are there spirits at work, or is it someone playing a big joke on them, or is it deeper than that?
Watching 13 Seconds was a treat, especially for anyone who’s wanted to make their own film. Jeff Thomas shows you that you can still make a disturbing and fun flick, even if you?re not in Hollywood. Of course there are some major drawbacks to his film, but what can you expect? The acting was mixed, some of the cast did an extremely good job, while others looked like they were reading off cue cards or trying to remember their lines. Even though some of the actors did a lousy job, a few of them really got into their parts, one of the girlfriends had tears running down her cheek and made some faces so filled with fear, you could almost feel it. The film could have easily been more effective if the acting was a little better, especially with such a great story.
The story was actually really intelligent, only the pace was a slight problem. The movie opened really well, and had an intense moment that had you pumped for the next hour and a half. Only the poor acting and dull next 30 minutes had you wondering if you could make it through the rest. But once things kick into high gear, you’re in for a treat; twists, turns, monsters and blood turn 13 Seconds around, and make it a really kick ass flick.
The special FX were incredible! Hands busting out of peoples chests, gruesome monsters spewing blood, and tricks as old as the first Nightmare on Elm Street. When I refer to the first Nightmare, I am referring to the scene where Freddy comes pushing out of the wall over Nancy’s head, which is extremely creepy. Jeff uses similar effects with his paintings and does just as good of a job, if not better! Some of the effects in 13 Seconds will blow your mind!
Jeff’s debut directing job was also extremely well done, but it was dampened by some bad editing and over use of the score. Jeff does a fantastic job of being creative and uses many interesting angles to keep this from looking like some high school student made it, but certain decisions damper his effectiveness. One example is one of the musicians gets killed and they play the score over the scene, then Jeff pans down over the bloody hand of the victim before he cuts it to the next scene. Instead of drowning out the score and leaving his hand in uncomfortable silence, he plays the music through the entire shot and then cuts to the next scene. This was a bad decision because it sounded terrible being cut in the middle of the score; simple things like this took away from the powerful possibilities of the film.
All in all, 13 Seconds is a visceral treat, you can feel the intensity at moments right in your gut. With a slightly larger budget, better use of the score and better actors, Jeff could have made this a high contender in festivals around the world! I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jeff Thomas became a name in Hollywood in the future, his ability and talent is shown here, and practice will pay off. If you appreciate low-budget efforts, and directorial debuts, 13 Seconds will shock you; it will leave you lying on the floor staring at the ceiling wondering what in gods name hit you. If I am going to give this a rating based on first time efforts and my expectations for the future, Id give Jeff Thomas’ 13 Seconds a 4 1/2 out of 5 skulls. But being that this is being promoted a serious flick, and being submitted at festivals and shown around the nation (you can see it in Madison Square garden on November 15th), I’m giving it a 3 1/2 out of 5 skulls. I still highly recommend checking 13 Seconds out if the opportunity arises.
13 Seconds has won BEST HORROR FEATURE from the New York Independent International Film Festival and BEST INDEPENDENT FEATURE from the Calgary International Horror Film Festival.