Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

13 Seconds | 2LDK

By Steve Anderson
January 16th, 2005

13 Seconds
**
DVD
Directed by Jeff Thomas
R
91 mins

Horror fans nationwide have been, from what I can tell, waiting with bated breath for this one to come out.

And just why, I can't tell. 13 Seconds will prove to be by lengths incomprehensible and terrifying, and the juxtaposition (wow, I can't believe I finally managed to slip that clunker in a column!) of the two will leave audiences scratching their heads.

So what we have here is the story of death and art.

And no, I'm not talking about going to some horrific British gallery and discovering that some schmuck paid better than fifty thousand dollars so some guy could create an exhibit entirely around a closet with faulty wiring. Because, frankly, that would kill me.

Columnist's Advisory: The preceding statement was not a joke. This was an actual exhibit called "The Lights Go On And Off," and someone did in fact pay an awful lot of money to have it built.

This is about some really deranged art that deals in torture, death, and the fact that we all have exactly thirteen seconds between the moment we die and our soul is divorced from our body. What happens in those thirteen seconds before our souls move on to their inevitable reward or judgment is the focus of this movie.

I'll hand it to 13 Seconds--the first three minutes are among the spookiest ever seen by man. But after that, it just trends off into the land of the incomprehensible. Yet, while it pretty much sets up shop in the land of the incomprehensible, it also manages to become horrific, spooky, genuinely suspenseful and self-referential all at once. 13 Seconds truly is the scariest movie I can't understand.

Worse yet, a good portion, maybe a third or more, of 13 Seconds is shot in this impenetrable blackness. I really can't even see what's going on a good part of the time.

13 Seconds wavers wildly between total incomprehensibility and sheer terror, and no one ever knows just which side will hit next. It's like being locked in a room with Alan Greenspan and the Tasmanian Devil on coke. Do you have any idea what that's like? Sitting there, watching a movie, being occasionally terrified and then spending long minutes thereafter confused out of your skull, wondering if the DVD skipped or something because you really don't remember anything like this happening before and absolutely nothing about it makes even the slightest bit of sense. Then all of a sudden, someone gets really flagrantly possessed and there's all this banging around and ghosties are screaming for your death because it will stop the pain. Then our characters wander into a hall, and we can't see a thing, and then there's another scream and what maybe could be blood or what could be hot fudge comes leaking out from under a table---

Do you see what I mean? This is what watching 13 Seconds is like.

The ending is just as confusing as the rest of the movie was, a strange mishmash of pseudo-religious ideologies, bizarre creatures, and bloody scenework for days. If it weren't for the killing and mayhem, this would be avant-garde cinema the likes of which would make the French themselves scratch their heads in sheer confusion. Which means you, much like me, probably won't really get it either.

The special features don't exist. Really. There are some audio options and a scene select menu, but barring that, nothing.

All in all, 13 Seconds is a strange mixture of the truly terrifying and the truly confusing. Whether or not you'll be scared depends largely on your tolerance for the confusing and your tolerance for the gut-wrenchingly horrific.

2LDK
DVD
****
Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi
unrated
70 mins

2LDK--this is a truly efficient Japanese real estate listing. What a typical Tokyo apartment hunter would discover from seeing that in print is an apartment with two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. Now this by itself is pretty interesting. An American real estate listing, of the same type, might read, "2 bed, living room, dining room, and full kitchen." Or even "2 BR." But the Japanese manage to package a full real estate listing into a mere four characters. The apartment may just be a four-character listing, but the two characters in the 2LDK are what we're going to have to pay attention to. So what we have here is the story of two starving artists--actresses, specifically--sharing an apartment in downtown Tokyo. Sounds pretty benign on its own, but these two have a lot of problems on their hands. They discover they're competing not only for the same role in an upcoming major feature film, but also for the same boyfriend. Now, close quarters like downtown Tokyo would make anyone twitchy, but when these two get together, it's like The Odd Couple mixed with Fatal Attraction and blended on high with a shot of Silence of the Lambs. You put these two in a cramped, congested environment like Tokyo, have them compete for the same job and the same man, and you know you're going to have serious problems. That's an understatement for these two. Well, let's just say you're never going to see a catfight quite like this one--a rolling, roiling, hour-long battle royale featuring catty remarks, cell phone chicanery, power tools, electric chainsaws, and electrocution devices. It's tough to tell the true intent of all this. Are we going for social commentary here? Is this a treatise on the volatile nature of Tokyo citizenry, forced to live packed into close quarters and closer lives? Could the Japanese just use a few more wide open spaces? Or are we just watching two hot Japanese chicks duke it out with all manner of weaponry? 2LDK is absolutely unbelievable stuff. Watching these two go back and forth, cattily chipping away at each other by what they think to themselves (in italics in the subtitles), makes for some amazing watching. These two battling actresses show us utterly everything that couple possibly go wrong with roommates, and a few things you never thought possible. Even more amazing, 2LDK operates on a cast of two. That's it. Just these two dueling divas, inches from ripping each other a couple new ones. And it even packs in disturbing stuff. Check out the scenes throughout involving the tub full of blood. It's intensely creepy to follow these two down into madness. It's impossible to classify 2LDK into one clean category. There are horror elements, comedy elements, dramatic elements, romantic elements, even just a few action movie elements that muddy these particular waters and bring forth a truly innovative movie. Check out the poster at the one minute forty second mark. It has the director's name on it on the bottom. Check out the duel at the forty five minute mark, too. You haven't seen surrealist until you've seen Pillow Versus Chainsaw! The ending is positively deranged in the nature of the sheer one-eighty that it takes from the preceding hour, but it's very watchable. The special features include a making of featurette and trailers for We also get some special footage of the Duel Project press conference, giving us background information about 2LDK's inception.

All in all, 2LDK is sometimes clever, sometimes cruel, and usually quality. Look for an excellent performance from our two lead actresses, and strap yourself in for a real wonder of a ride.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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