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It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good creature film, and while Jonathan Glendening’s “13 Hours” (also spelled “13 Hrs”) isn’t the best the genre has to offer, it’s still a reasonably entertaining effort. At the very least, at about 80 minutes of running time it never once bored me, which, let me assure you, is a major win. Though I have to admit, the set-up was a bit much, with zero traces of anything supernatural or creature-ish happening whatsoever until the creature begins attacking at around the 20-minute mark. I suppose we should be thankful Glendening and screenwriter Adam Phillips care enough to even attempt at proper introductions of the various meat – er, I mean, characters. Unfortunately they all come across as dicks instead of people I should be rooting for, so there you go.
“13 Hours” opens with Sarah (Isabella Calthorpe) returning to her family’s isolated English countryside home after a long absence. She’s come back to trouble — her mother is missing, and the going assumption is that she’s seeing a lover behind her step-father’s back. Sarah’s step-father (Simon MacCorkindale) has his own issues, including Sarah’s three ne’er-do-well brothers (and little baby brother Luke), her ex-boyfriend Doug (Joshua Bowman), and her childhood friend Emily (Gemma Atkinson). As Sarah renews old acquaintances, bickers a bit with the boys, and generally tries to get on with her not-so-happy homecoming, a creature has also arrived at the family home, and dad has become its first victim. To complicate matters, a storm has knocked out the lights, and the boys and girls flee what they believe to be a rabid animal, but prove to be much, much worst.
The film boasts an association with Neil Marshall’s solders vs. werewolf movie “Dog Soldiers” by way of one of its producers, and I suppose that was a smart move from a publicity stand point. “13 Hours” definitely doesn’t have “Dog Soldiers’” budget, and Glendening doesn’t quite have Marshall’s flare for cinematic bloodletting, though he’s obviously no amateur filmmaker. Nevertheless, the director and his cast make do with what they have, and the results, while not overly slick, are still very competent. Gorehounds will certainly find a lot to like about the movie, even if the film keeps much of its bloody kills offscreen or shot through various filters to lighten the need for expensive practical effects. They certainly had plenty of fake blood lying around, though.
Shot mostly in a single location, “13 Hours” gets most of it right, though you probably won’t spend a whole lot of time rooting for the characters, as even leading lady Sarah has a surprisingly bitchy streak that pops out every now and then. As far as I can tell, only outsider Doug and little baby brother Luke, who spends most of the film asleep in the barn, are sympathetic enough to even consider rooting for. Of the cast, English glamour model Gemma Atkinson and “Harry Potter” actor Tom Felton will probably get the headlines, though Felton exits the movie very early on, leading me to believe he’s doing this as a favor to someone in the production.
Atkinson lasts a bit longer, and has probably the film’s best exit strategy. It was pretty out of left field and I have to admit, made me crack a huge honking grin. And no, for those wondering, Glendening never manages to get Atkinson out of her very short skirt, which is a crying shame. Whoever heard of casting a glamour model known primarily for wearing very little or nothing at all, and completely whiffing on the gratuitous T&A? Sacrilegious! In fact, in a bit of a twist, the T&A comes from an unexpected source. I would like to believe Glendening pulled the switcheroo on us on purpose, but the truth is that Atkinson probably had a no-nudity clause in her contract.
As creature features go, “13 Hours” offers some intense moments, and the filmmakers wisely hide the creature for nearly the entire running length. You don’t even see what the thing that’s chasing our victims all over the house looks like until almost the final 5 minutes of the movie. Is it a rabid dog? A werewolf? Some kind of cannibalistic humanoid from underground? I honestly couldn’t tell you. The script does wrap up with a very nice, tidy bow that answers all the questions raised throughout the movie, though. And yes, it does leave room for a sequel. This is a horror movie, after all; what self-suspecting horror movie doesn’t leave room for sequels?
Jonathan Glendening (director) / Adam Phillips (screenplay)
CAST: Gemma Atkinson … Emily
Joshua Bowman … Doug Walker
Isabella Calthorpe … Sarah Tyler
Cornelius Clarke … May
Anthony Di Liseo … Luke
Tom Felton … Gary
Peter Gadiot … Stephen Moore