Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Triskaidekaphilia: 'The 13th Sign' (2000)

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

Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on the ultra-low-budget British horror movie The 13th Sign, because from what I can gather from various online commentaries, it may actually be a student film that somehow managed to get major home video distribution. But the truth is that even students should be able to do a better job than this, or at least should start with something smaller while still learning basic filmmaking techniques. Sign is more or less unwatchable, a grubby, incomprehensible "horror" movie that's full of exposition and yet still makes absolutely no sense. There are no signs, let alone 13 of them, in this movie, in which some sort of demon-worshiping cult takes over a small English village for purposes that I never understood.

Fifteen years earlier, main character Lany (Nadja Brand) witnessed her father go on a murderous rampage through their hometown, killing 15 people before shooting himself. Now an adult, Lany lives with her aunt (although the relationship is only clarified by credits listing her as "Aunt Mira"), but is drawn back to the village after experiencing mysterious dreams/visions about another, similar killing spree carried out by a skinny bald man. That sounds a lot more coherent than the way that directors Jonty Acton and Adam Mason present the storyline, via elliptical dialogue that references poorly defined supernatural forces, characters whose motivations make no sense, and a setting that has all the authenticity of a pre-planned obstacle course.

That's not to mention how just plain ugly this movie is, shot on the cheapest early '00s digital video, with murky colors and frequent blown-out light sources making the picture physically hard to look at. The acting is uniformly horrendous (although clearly Acton's script didn't give his stars much to work with), the special effects are laughably basic, and the mythology is totally nonsensical, with its boilerplate references to secret rituals and chosen ones and ancient demonic forces. The main evil is some sort of moon god that gets its power from an eclipse, but what exactly that power is or what the entity wants to accomplish is never clear.

Lany teams up with Riley (Eric Colvin), the man from her vision, who learned from her father all about the evil cult, and is apparently the only person in the village interested in stopping them (or even, as far as I could tell, the only person in the village who's not actually in the cult), although they do recruit some random homeless guy later. Their plan seems to be the same as Lany's father's plan from years ago (just shoot everyone!), and the movie somehow makes the mass slaughter of everyone in the village into a heroic goal. In the second half of the extremely short movie (not even 80 minutes long), some group of Mad Max-looking warriors (including one with a giant claw hand) come to town to take care of Lany and Riley, but again I had no idea where they came from or what their motivation was or whether they were demons or just henchmen. At least the claw hand looked cool, which was literally the only redeeming quality of this dreadful movie. If it really was a student film, it deserves an F.