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Friday, January 7, 2022

It Pays to Do Bad Things in Twisted Thai Movie ’13: Game of Death’ [Horrors Elsewhere]

Horrors Elsewhere is a recurring column that spotlights a variety of movies from all around the globe, particularly those not from the United States. Fears may not be universal, but one thing is for sure a scream is understood, always and everywhere.

As if things were not bad enough for the miserable main character in 13: Game of Death, he is then laid off. Things seem to be on the up and up once Phuchit “Chit” Puengnathong gets a fortuitous phone call from a stranger; the omnipotent organization she represents pays people handsomely after they complete a series of thirteen challenges. While this sounds like a dream come true for someone who has fallen on hard times, the game becomes more and more sinister with each dare.

Matthew Chookiat Sakveerakul’s 13: Game of Death has the trappings of films like Saw, The Most Dangerous Game, and The Running Man. One person’s suffering is another’s entertainment. Rather than confining victims to an enclosed space rigged with booby traps, turning people into prey, or having contestants battle for their own freedom, 13 reworks the formula so its story feels fairly innovative. Even so, Sakveerakul preserves the two most crucial elements in these sorts of stories: the puppet and the puppet master.

Chit (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) is the ill-fated player in this so-called game, while a network of unknown parties act as his exploiter. The most glaring difference between this film and Saw, however, is Chit plays of his own free will. He is not physically forced to comply. On the contrary, he is given several opportunities to quit and forfeit the money he has earned. The fact that Chit goes along willingly with their sick sport reveals a dark side of the human psyche not always touched on in torture-for-fun stories.

The character at the center of 13: Game of Death seems like a harmless everyman overwhelmed by life. Adding to Chit’s neverending aggravation is a spiteful work rival, years worth of family baggage, and a shallow ex-girlfriend he still pines for. Flashbacks show Chit suffered at the hands of his father (Philip Wilson) and those around him. For years he let the abuse continue without resistance, or he hesitated when given the opportunity to fight back. As an adult, Chit remains stoic and suffers mistreatment from all sides. Someone else in the same shoes might have turned out differently, but Chit is kind and gentle. Which is why his quick decision to play the game comes as a surprise.

Offsetting Chit’s innate goodness is the unconcealed and exaggerated immorality of other characters. From a vindictive and shrill coworker to a negligent family consumed by self-interest, many others here are plain awful. The exceptions are Chit’s concerned friend Tong (Achita Sikamana) and his mother. These harsh overstatements of personality and depravity more than border on cartoonish, but 13: Game of Death is a darkly comical tale to begin with. Sakveerakul finds humor where it normally would (or should) not exist. Laughing at Chit and others’ expense does not take away from the horror at hand, though. On the contrary, the comedy seen from time to time only underlines the dreadfulness of Chit’s situation.

The main events of 13 happen all in one day, although shooting lasted seven months. This sense of urgency is fruitful as it allows for non-stop action and adrenaline-fueled thrills. There are no lulls here as soon as Chit accepts his first challenge and races off to fulfill twelve more. The tasks range from mildly foul to utterly vile; Chit goes from eating a fly to consuming a plate of fresh feces. As disgusting as that all sounds, things only get wilder. Again, the desire to laugh at Chit’s misfortune is only natural because all of this is so absurd. And the film absolutely knows this — Sakveerakul reaches a point of no return and never backs down. The story inevitably feels like one sustained breath.

A remake called 13 Sins and directed by Daniel Stamm was released in 2014. The setup is the same: a recently sacked man named Elliot (Mark Webber) is given the chance to win a huge jackpot if he performs a set of bizarre and often dangerous challenges. All of this happens in the middle of Elliot’s engagement to Shelby (Rutina Wesley), his pregnant fiancée. Along with other major changes from the original, the detective on Elliot’s trail (Ron Perlman) has a more substantial part to play. Family is emphasized too; Elliot has a brother (Devon Graye) as well as an all-around abusive father (Tom Bower). 

After some time, the remake starts to go in a different direction. The morbidity is still clear and present, but Stamm and co-writer David Birke punched up the nihilism and intentionally reinterpreted the initial elation that the protagonist feels as he satisfies his thirteen “sins” and asserts himself in a dog-eat-dog world. Elliot’s ordeal is now treated as a metaphor for drug addiction; he experiences empowerment along with an overwhelming comedown fraught with regret. The family angle is carried over from the original, but how it all plays out here is more devastating. An alternate ending, one that Stamm dropped because he felt it was much too bleak, is available on the Blu-ray.

The original Thai film goes a step further in explaining itself, whereas the remake desires more mystery while also making room for a delicious twist. Either way, both 13: Game of Death and 13 Sins are dark fantasies that reel audiences in with a shared preposterous plot, then deliver their own unique, gut-wrenching conclusions that equally comment on the troubling state of society.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3697954/pays-bad-things-twisted-thai-movie-13-game-death-horrors-elsewhere/

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