Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
May 1st , 2010


Directed by Pritesh Chheda
Written by Pritesh Chheda
Starring Amanda Brown, John Lansch, Marc Hustvedt, Trant Batey
Produced by Pritesch Chheda, Jenny Goddard
90 mins

When a movie can start off with a line like "There's a razor thin line between sanity and insanity, sometimes you don't even know you've crossed it," it's a fair bet that something big is going to happen. And chances are, it's not going to be pretty. But whether or not it'll be entertaining remains to be seen, and that's exactly what we're tackling with 13Teen.

Any horror flick that can use Fur Elise as part of the narrative pretty much gets a little extra bit of credibility, as it makes such an excellent background for most any suspenseful scene. And you've definitely got to hand it to the writers for constant rain and thunder in the background, a definite extra boost.

There's a vicious storm brewing in the town of Emeryville, and residents are being warned of troubles even worse than that. Seems a local serial killer is taking advantage of the confusion to run amok, and he always leaves his calling card behind--carving the number thirteen into his victims. So when Sera finds herself forced to let in not one but two strange men in one evening, it's going to be one doozy of a night for her. Especially when you consider that she's not quite right in the head herself.

And indeed, the first half or so of 13teen (also called For Sale By Owner, if I'm reading the IMDB right) is actually kind of dull and listless, as they try to build their plot and don't manage to do a very effective job of it. But about halfway through, it's as though you start watching a whole different movie that's WILDLY more effective. I don't know how they managed to pull it off--all I know is that they did.

So where does that leave us? 13teen is half of a really awesome movie, but the other half is a slow, sludgy mess. Can you sit through the yawnfest that is the first half to get to the second half, which is a terrific movie? That's your call to make, but I can tell you you'll be at least partially satisfied.

The ending is where 13teen really shines, and manages to be suspenseful and satisfying all at the same time.

The special features are somewhat limited and include only a photo gallery.

All in all, it's like I said. If you've got the patience to sit through half a pile of garbage, then you'll be rewarded with this really sweet half of a movie that makes the whole merely adequate.

House of the Devil

House of the Devil
Directed by Ti West
Written by Ti West
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig Produced by Josh Braun, Larry Fessenden, Roger Kass, Peter Phok
95 mins

Ti West, if you haven't been keeping track of him lately, has had sort of a strange sort of infatuation with retro fare. After seeing "The Roost", I had an idea how he was looking to handle his movies. Turns out House of the Devil was going to be another example of retro fare.

House of the Devil features Samantha, a girl who's looking to start making something of her life. She's got an apartment, and she's looking for a way to pay for it. She's got a deposit to cover, and not much money left in her account. So when she gets a shot at a one night babysitting gig paying more than enough to cover her deposit, she jumps at the chance. But the job turns out to be a lot more than she bargained for...and she may not get out alive.

I'll admit, right off, that the first hour or so of the movie is scary, but also a bit dull. See, they're doing a terrific job of building tension here. But the problem is that they're not doing a very good job of RELEASING that tension with an appropriate number of jump scares or anything like that. The end result is a strange combination of disturbing and confusing, as you're left wondering just where the hell Ti West is GOING with all this.

And that's the big problem here. They're not doing anything particularly wrong with this movie--it's eerie, it's atmospheric, you could even call it a bit moody, but it's not very scary. In fact, by the time the ending shows up, you'll actually be a bit more confused than you will be scared.

The ending, in fact, is the biggest problem with the whole movie. Something horrible is clearly going on here but I'm not even all that sure just what IS going on. It's like someone interspersed bits of other horror movies into the last ten minutes, like someone has replaced the last twenty, thirty odd pages of script with a big bold face print that says "RANDOM SATANIC STUFF GOES HERE". It's perplexing. And those bits of it I actually DO get seem to be just giant knockoffs of stuff I've already seen.

Rosemary's Baby-sitter, anyone?

The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, cast and crew commentary tracks, a behind the scenes featurette and a bonus featurette, a trailer for House of the Devil (as well as a whole slug of them that weren't accessible from the DVD menu itself but played on their own, a technique that never ceases to irk me) and some deleted scenes.

All things considered, I'm not really happy with how this one turned out. It's a bit too retro and the ending is a bit too confusing for my tastes. However, if you're into retro movies, then you might well enjoy this one. I say, stay out of the House of the Devil.