This simple premise is extremely effective. The posters of “13 Beloved” (also known as “13: Game of Death”)(original title being “13 game sayawng”) suggest a slasher movie. The film is indeed gross and gory, but it also tries to expose the fragility of human morality. What are you willing to do for money? Is there anything that would stop you?
It truly deserves the R rating. And I strongly advise you not to eat anything while watching it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The main hero loses his job and his car. His girlfriend dumped him and he is in serious debt. He fails in every area of life that an adult man is supposed to succeed in. And then he answers the phone and gets the offer from “the game show.”
There is a fly buzzing around you. Kill it.
He does it. That’s the first task. And immediately 10,000 baht (about 300 dollars) appear on his bank account. The amount of money will grow with each completed challenge. But here’s the catch: he will lose everything he earned so far if he stops. He also cannot tell anyone about the game. The total prize is 100 million baht.
The second task? It’s great you killed the fly. Now swallow it.
If these are the first two, you may ask: what comes next?
“13 Beloved” is a gripping spectacle of violence, dark humor, and disgust. It does not leave you indifferent. And the fact that it is a movie from Thailand does not change the way I perceive it. The story is absolutely universal. It is both modern and timeless. On the one hand, we have cell-phones and the Internet as crucial parts of the plot. On the other hand, the protagonist yearns for splendid goods and financial security, which people have always longed for.
The main character is played by Krissada Sukosol (aka Krissada Terrence) and his performance is excellent. It is interesting that the actor was a member of the pop band before and sang sweet ballads. He believably portrays his character’s transformation from a shy and average guy at the beginning into a blood-thirsty lunatic at the end.
What seemed to bother many people who watched “13 Beloved” were comic episodes intermingled with serious ones. Some even saw the whole movie as a parody. I think that the whole movie is constructed as a dangerous and exciting game with set rules. Like a TV show or, more appropriately, an Internet show. Comedy is a part of this aesthetic. The neon sign at the beginning says: have some fun. And this neon sign is written in English. It could represent the whole Western pop culture that the movie successfully mocks, at the same time resembling it. My favorite comic character is a madman with an unconventional fashion sense.
I think that David Fincher is a director who could successfully remake this movie, as its tone fits his style. Unfortunately, the remake is being made as “13 Sins” (yuck! Did they even watch the original?). It is directed by Daniel Stamm (the man behind “The Last Exorcism”) and looks like a cheap and dull straight-to-video (even if it gets released in cinemas) kind of movie which even my hero, Ron Perlman, cannot save. It makes me sad to see such potential wasted. But on the other hand, this Thai movie does not need a remake to stay remembered by its fans.
The ending can be interpreted in many ways. Some viewers felt confused by it. For me the more grotesque, the better, so I enjoyed it even more. I see it as partly accusing the viewer of the game. Thus accusing me and you, the audience. Do we enjoy watching people suffer for our entertainment? Maybe we are as guilty as the person who would agree on the deal of 13 tasks.
Do not let this movie fall into obscurity. I’m not the only one who feels that this movie need more appreciation. Sound On Sight chose this movie as #2 of “Top 10 Overlooked Horror/Sci-fi Films of the Decade” while Blake Vaugh included it on the great list “Some Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen (But Should!)” on his blog. Perhaps the site Collider.com summed it up best, saying: “Be the first cool kid on your block to get hip to this cult hit waiting to happen.” And if you do, let me know what you think in the comment section below.