Monday, December 13, 2010

Triskaidekaphilia: 13 Hours in a Warehouse

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

I watched 13 Hours in a Warehouse last week at Las Vegas' great Sci Fi Center, as part of a sadly under-attended double feature showcasing indie horror actress Rachel Grubb (whom I also interviewed). I skipped out on the second feature, Terror Overload, but I found 13 Hours fitfully entertaining and occasionally suspenseful, albeit far too clumsy to work consistently. For her part, Grubb is effectively creepy as one of three female ghosts who haunt an old warehouse where a gang of thieves is hiding out.

The acting by the leads could generously be called uneven, and early scenes in which the group sits around and trades pop-culture banter like third-rate Tarantino characters are pretty painful. The bluster never quite seems real, and it's hard to buy these guys as genuinely dangerous thugs. But when they start getting scared and turning on each other, the movie becomes a lot more believable, and the actors are able to pull off those emotions much more convincingly than they're able to sell writer-director Dav Kaufman's stilted dialogue. It helps that there is a genuinely spooky atmosphere to a lot of the scenes, thanks to the empty, run-down location and some simple but evocative camera work.

Kaufman uses a cool effect on the ghosts, making them flicker and stutter like poorly tracked images on old VHS tapes (which eventually figure into the back story). It's a unique and immediate way to convey otherworldliness (it owes something to The Ring, but is handled in a very different way). He frames one shot with tiny nooses in the foreground that circle the faces of the characters in the background, and generally uses his visuals to indicate the danger of what's going on without drawing too much attention to it. You don't expect subtlety in a movie like this, and I appreciated it. The plotting is too slapdash, the dialogue is too awkward, and the acting is too wooden. But the style makes up for some of that, which puts 13 Hours slightly ahead of a good number of its direct-to-DVD horror counterparts.

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