Made in Britain: 13Hrs
I’ve been toying with this idea for a while, but never got round to doing it. Basically, Britain used to have a proud film industry, but years of incompetence, neglect and gross stupidity reduced it to little more than a rump. Still, in the 21st Century there is a core of British talent out there making films in this country. Admittedly, for every Danny Boyle there’s also a Danny Dyer, but nevertheless, we do still make films here. I’m weirdly compelled to watch almost everything made in the UK, so when I blunder across one, I’m going to review it here under the banner: Made in Britain. First up is 2010’s 13hrs, a reasonable attempt at a 21st century werewolf movie.
13hrs, actually, doesn’t look like it will be that good on paper. Written by Adam Phillips, a man with less than bugger all on his CV aside from something called S.N.U.B (a film which has a dizzying 3.3 stars at IMDB), and directed by Jonathan Glendening (who is helming the forthcoming Strippers v Werewolves that I will bet now will be gash, albeit gash that I clearly will watch), 13hrs stars in no particular order, Tom Felton (better known as Draco Malfoy), Isabella Calthorpe, Gemma Atkinson (from Hollyoaks fame), Peter Gadiot and Joshua Bowman. None of these, with the exception of Malfoy, have made anything worthwhile.
The poster above really sets out what 13hrs is going for. It’s claiming some sort of affinity with the vastly superior Dog Soldiers, and has a “pretty” cast set in a brooding location. This, in theory, should make for a pretty decent Werewolf film. So, we’re instantly reminded of a great movie, and we’re pretty much aware of how this is going to play out. You can even pick the order that the characters are going down in. If you like.
13hrs tells the story of Sarah (Calthorpe). Sarah has returned from America (where isn’t specified) to her ancestral pile and the welcoming bosom of her step-father and miscreant brothers. The power goes out and our less-than-intrepid group find themselves trapped in the mansion at the mercy of a flesh hungry beast. There is hours to dawn, the storm is closing in and our little gang of toffs are in a world of trouble. Can they make it?
Obviously, they can’t. Well, not all of them, anyhow. The characters here barely function as characters- they’re little more than archetypes/ meat puppets for the film to slaughter. Felton, for example, plays a stoner wastrel, and Gadiot plays an upper class git. Calthorpe is clearly the “nice” girl, and Atkinson plays working-class bit of skirt. She’s Stephen’s (Gadiot)”bit of rough”, actually and in a dismally transparent attempt at adding depth, used to be Sarah’s friend. Nevertheless, actually, the characters aren’t really that important as this is basically just a slasher template. The film wants us to root for our gang, and to some extent we do for some of them, but really, this is a straight up slasher film, so deep characterisation isn’t necessarily vital- I know that the killer is a werewolf, but it hinges on a “mystery” killer and the budget doesn’t really allow them to show the wolf. Unfortunately, the film has several serious problems with the main male character (and I was desperate for him to die), however, though, he’s meant to be strongly dislikeable, but he’s almost a parody of a feckless upper-crust Tory scumbag. Watching this tosser is deeply irritating for the most part, and the sense of satisfaction in his demise is palpable. In direct contrast to the under-characterisation, however, 13hrs is heavily over-plotted. For example, there’s a 13-year-old character who only surfaces late in the film and is completely extraneous. Furthermore, there’s an idiotic twist ending (that you can see coming a mile away).
This begs the question, is it successful as a slasher? For the most part, yes. There’s some good tension generated here. The house is in itself a creepy location, and the pitch-blackness helps to hide the obvious budgetary limitations. There are a couple of gripping scenes, and the remote location is effectively used to full advantage. Moreover, some of the acting is good, particularly Atkinson (who’s great actually) and really seems to understand what she’s doing. Unfortunately, the casting is off. Calthorpe, while very pretty, isn’t especially likeable in the lead, and seems too “nice” to have cut all contact and buggered off to America. More unforgivably, though, she doesn’t seem to have the steel of a young Jamie Lee Curtis, and this limits her chances of survival. There’s the odd crass moment here (Lycanthropcy again linked to hormone production and sex drive, something that Ginger Snaps did much better), that she doesn’t really have the appeal to carry off. Nevertheless, the acting is mostly competent.
There are a couple of scenes I want to talk about here, one that works and works spectacularly well and one that really doesn’t. The first is Atkinson’s death. While a bit of a disappointment, this is outright hilarious and brilliantly put together. She’s just been part of the ill-fated mission to get the gun, and while they have the ammunition and the shotgun, she is less than chuffed at Stephen’s pathetic performance (the bastard left her to the less-than-tender mercies of the beast and chickened out). She takes the gun off him, loads it, brilliantly declares “I’m going to go down there and show that fucker what I’m made of”, turns round, sees the beast below her, goes to shoot it, slips and blows her own head clean off. It’s one of the most amusing horror movie deaths ever, and I howled with laughter at it. The film, actually, is worth watching just for this scene. The second moment, the one that isn’t successful, is the climax. The wolf is revealed and it’s basically a werewolf with Alopecia. We’ve seen it a few times so we know it is hairless (and the idiotic attempt at foreshadowing blows exactly who it is). Anyhow, our heroine is infected (a nicely done transformation scene, actually) and she then charges in to attempt to kill everyone left. There’s a pretty pathetic “wolf off”, and it looks like everyone bar the kid has died. Now, what pisses me off here, is that the actual very ending of the film is incoherent and doesn’t make sense. There is no way that the kid would go off with his sister having witnessed her turn into a slavering beast the night before. No. Way. Furthermore, they attempt to leave it open for a sequel in the most crass way imaginable. This, actually, really annoyed me and is indicative of the limitations of the film. It’s successful up to a point, but overreaches itself on several occasions.
Overall, I’m not sure if I do recommend this. It isn’t hateful, but it isn’t great. Aside from the Atkinson death scene (Atkinson in general, actually), there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before and nothing that hasn’t been done much better elsewhere. 13hrs also lacks the sense of fun of Dog Soldiers, and the intelligence of Ginger Snaps, falling some place in the middle. There’s an easy fix here, that would have improved the film exponentially: get rid of the kid as the problems here mostly arise from too much ambition and too much plot. I give it two Teenwolves slam dunking a basket out of a possible four.
Less would really be more.
Next up is Red Road. A pretty overlooked film that I think’s worth a mention somewhere.
Until next time,