A "Saw" knockoff without the torture porn, "13 Sins" features a Jigsaw-like master of ceremonies who calls up desperate participants and entices them with cash rewards for the completion of 13 tasks with varying degrees of severity.
Downtrodden insurance salesman Elliot (Mark Webber) loses his job just as his fiancée (Rutina Wesley of "True Blood") announces her pregnancy, his father (Tom Bower) receives an eviction notice and his mentally disabled brother (Devon Graye) faces institutionalization.
So dire are Elliot's circumstances that no one knows if the film's schadenfreude is to be taken at face value or as an elaborate joke. While some of the tasks do indeed evoke the "Saw" franchise, others recall "Weekend at Bernie's," "Jackass" and Sacha Baron Cohen flicks.
"13 Sins" is adapted from Chookiat Sakveerakul's 2006 Thai film "13: Game of Death," and the transition from Bangkok to New Orleans isn't smooth. Unlike the original, the adapted screenplay co-written by David Birke and director Daniel Stamm ("The Last Exorcism") never satisfyingly accounts for how the unseen puppeteer manages to keep a constant eye on Elliot's every move. Perhaps the remake would have worked better if they weren't so intent on turning it into the next "Saw."
"13 Sins." MPAA rating: R for violence, bloody images and language. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. At Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood. Also on VOD.
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