04th Jul2017

’13 Demons’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Cunningham, Stephen Grey, Daniel Falicki, Jackson Ezinga, Patrick Hendren, Jason Roth, Steven Taber, Charley Vanportfliet | Written and Directed by Daniel Falicki

13demons-art

“This is some Jumanji sh*t…”

That line couldn’t be more apt to describe 13 Demons. A fresh take on the evils of roleplaying games and how the lines between games and reality can become blurred (anyone remember back in the 80s when Dungeons and Dragons was said to be the work of the devil?), 13 Demons sees three nerdy guys get a hold of a long-banned board game called 13 Daemons – why banned? Well apparently 30 years ago, when the game originally debuted, there was a slew of murders of innocent people by those that were playing the game; as the line between the game and reality became blurred for all that took part.

Of course our protagonists believe none of that, instead choosing to crack open 13 Daemons and enjoy the thrill of playing such an illicit game. Big mistake. The more they play the more the become overtaken by it, until they believe they are the very characters – golden palaldins – they are playing as. And believe that there truly are thirteen demons planning on taking over the world, and only they can stop them and kill them.

Think of 13 Demons as a more horrific take on what the Jumanji kids had to go through!

I’m going to be honest, I’d never heard of writer/director and (in this case) co-star Daniel Falicki before seeing 13 Demons. Turns out he, and filmic cohorts Warren Croyle and Sheri Beth Dusek (both of whom are credited as producers on a number of Falicki’s films) have been pumping out numerous direct to market movies over the past decade, out of their base in Grand Rapids, Michigan – most of which feature a style of visual effects-come-animation that Falicki has dubbed “Rotomation”. Here Falicki uses Rotomation to show us the distorted view of reality that the three protagonists have whilst under the “spell” of the 13 Daemons game and it’s a well-thought out mix of live-action and animation that gives those particular sequences an ethereal look and feel.

Speaking of which, for a film about three murderous gamers, we don’t actually see much murder beyond those rotomation sequences in which our “heroes” battle their demons. Instead this is a story focused strongly on its three central characters – who are only identified by their paladin ndmes: Abelsworth, Lord Of the High Wind (Cunningham); Thomas Of Belmont (Falicki) and Torkul of Darkhaven (Grey). Of the three it’s Stephen Grey’s Torkul that is the real standout. From the very moment he utters his first line, in the opening interogation scene (the film is told, for the most part, in flashback), Grey is captivating – even when his character is doing little more than reading from the 13 Daemons rulebook – thanks to a strong vocal tone (seriously, Grey could make a fortune voicing warriors and knights in animation and videogames based on what we hear here) and an even stronger performance, especially once the three players sucumb to 13 Daemons entirely.

13 Demons does have some budgetary issues, in particular some obvious ADR that stands out like a sore thumb but, honestly, that can be forgiven. Especially when the story itself is, despite seemingly being plucked straight from the 80s, so refreshing and so well told.

**** 4/5

13 Demons is available on VOD and PPV now from Sector5 Films.

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