The Movie Waffler First Look Review - DAY 13 | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - DAY 13

day 13 review
A teen suspects his elderly new neighbour is abusing his adopted daughter.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jax Medel

Starring: Alex MacNicoll, Martin Kove, Genevieve Hannelius, Darlene Vogel

day 13 poster

Like Fright Night, Disturbia and the recent lockdown box-office hit The Wretched, director Jax Medel's Day 13 is a descendant of Hitchcock's Rear Window. Yep, it's another peeping tom who begins to suspect the mysterious neighbour across the street is up to no good. This one begins in rather straightforward thriller territory, but as it lurches into the horror genre it all starts to get a bit creaky.

day 13 review

The peeping tom here is teenager Colton (Alex MacNicoll, who in classic teen horror fashion, appears to be in his late twenties). His plans to spend two weeks alone while his mother holidays in Spain are disrupted when he's left in charge of his little sister Rachel (Meyrick Murphy). Soon after his mother leaves, he notices movement in the long abandoned house across the street, whose gothic stylings are decidedly out of place in his bland suburban neighbourhood.

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It's here that the movie begins to stretch credulity, as Colton spends $600 on surveillance equipment, rigging up cameras so he can spy on the house across the street. We're given no indication of why he is so obsessed by the idea that it might now be occupied, and if it is, it's really none of his business. Snooping around, Colton bumps into Heather (Genevieve Hannelius), the pretty teen who has just moved into the house with her elderly adoptive father. The two seem to hit it off, but Colton's attempts to ask Heather out are thwarted by her insistence that her over-protective 'Dad' won't let her out of his sight. When Colton catches the old man (Martin Kove, continuing his late career revival) lurking outside the bathroom as Heather showers, he begins to suspect Heather is in grave danger.

day 13 review

2007's Disturbia proved that the Rear Window template could be applied successfully to a teen thriller, and Day 13 follows many of the same beats, specifically a plot motivated essentially by a teenage boy's horniness. The problem here is that Dan Gannon and Walter Goldwalter's script is so clearly attempting to misdirect us by obfuscating the true nature of what's really going on across the street from Colton, that we quickly cotton onto the idea that all is not what it seems. Our teenage protagonist somehow doesn't seem able to put two and two together, even when he witnesses a supernatural occurrence right in front of his eyes. The movie's defence might be that he's so smitten by Heather he can't see the forest for the trees, but he literally witnesses X-Men level shit!!! Come on Colton, no kid is so horny that he's willing to shrug something like that off.

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Medel's film suffers from unreliable narrator syndrome, offering us glimpses inside Heather's house, allowing us to witness things Colton can't himself see. These flashes seem to suggest that Colton might be onto something, so it would have made more sense to see them through Colton's eyes. As presented, it feels like a filmmaking cheat, one that comes off as clumsy. The film's climax is dogged by confusing editing choices that leave us scratching our heads as we wait for it all to be explained in a late expository speech. The over-the-top conclusion unwisely opts to explicitly show us what said speech prophesied, but the film's budget doesn't stretch to cover convincing CG FX, and it all ends in SyFy channel level visual sludge.

day 13 review

There's a lesson here for low-budget filmmakers. Day 13 works best when it keeps things intimate, and for its opening 30 minutes or so it's a pretty effective little thriller, even if its protagonist's behaviour is hard to swallow. But it feels like a script that began with its final twist, and it ties itself in knots working backwards to deliver its denouement. To create suspense, an audience needs to be two steps ahead of a film's protagonist, but the film needs to be two steps ahead of the audience. With Day 13, this sequence is out of whack, as the audience eventually finds itself two steps ahead of the film, and at that point there's no way for it to recover.

Day 13 is on US VOD now (details here). A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2020 movie reviews