Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Triskaidekaphilia: '13 Demons' (2016)

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

There are no actual demons in the cheapo straight-to-VOD "horror" movie 13 Demons, and even the faux-demons slain by the main characters never quite add up to 13. Shot almost entirely in two cramped rooms, 13 Demons has a grand fantasy premise that is far beyond the meager means of its filmmakers, who fail completely at conjuring up a fantastical realm outside the limited onscreen action. The title refers to a notorious board game discovered by a trio of unnamed gamer nerds (played by Stephen Grey, Michael Cunningham and writer-director Daniel Falicki), who bring it back to their dingy apartment to play. The nerd who finds the game tells the other two that 30 years ago it was banned because players went crazy and committed murders while claiming to be characters from the game. So once the main characters start playing, they ... go crazy and commit murders while claiming to be characters from the game.

Plus, the movie starts with a flash-forward to two of the three gamers being interrogated by the police, who begin by helpfully recounting how these two guys murdered a bunch of people, while the gamers spout a bunch of nonsense about being knights on a quest. So the movie tells you what it's going to be about, in two different contexts, and then proceeds exactly along those lines, without any deviations at all. We don't even get to see any of these brutal murders being committed, because the production is too limited. Instead we spend what feels like an eternity watching these three slovenly nerds roll dice and read overwrought Dungeons and Dragons-style prose from the game's manual, as they move pieces around a board that looks like it was made at a summer-camp arts and crafts activity.

Even at only 73 minutes, 13 Demons drags on interminably, and in the first half, the characters constantly comment on how dull and repetitive the game is, speaking in monotonous tones and frequently yawning. It's like one of those YouTube videos designed to help you relax and fall asleep, and it came close to working on me a few times. When we finally get to the demon-slaying, it's a crappy green-screened hallucination, as the characters imagine themselves dressed as knights and killing the exact same shadowy-looking demon each time, against a swirling CGI background that looks like an effects program's sample graphic. There's virtually no violence or blood, just the same rudimentary attack over and over. When the movie returns to the police interrogation, it devolves into the gamers and the cops yelling the equivalent of "Is not!" "Is too!" at each other, until the movie just ends abruptly without any resolution. Even the crappiest boards games know to come to some sort of conclusion.

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