13: Game of Death

By RodneyHatfieldJr for Movies

My friend called me over the weekend and told me he had a treat for me. I was apprehensive at first. Some friends you know, this could be either really great, or it could be a bag of dog poo behind your car seat without your knowledge. More to the point he dropped off a movie I had been wanting to watch. That movie is the Taiwanese movie 13: Game of Death.

The story is about a man who is led through progressively challenging, degrading, and dangerous stunts by mysterious callers from an underground reality game show. First Chit is then laid off. Then he gets a fortuitous phone call from a stranger; the omnipotent organization 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 is in the same vein as Saw or The Running Man. One person’s suffering is another’s entertainment. The challenges turning people into prey or having contestants battle for their own freedom. The most glaring difference between this film and others, however, is Chit (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) 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. 13 preserves the two most crucial elements in these sorts of stories: the puppet and the puppet master.

What makes the story work is the character. 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. We see flashbacks showing Chit suffered at the hands of his father (Philip Wilson) and those around him. For years he let the abuse continue without resistance. As an adult, Chit remains stoic and suffers mistreatment from all sides.

Playing off Chit’s goodness is the exaggerated morality of other characters. From shrill coworkers to a negligent family consumed by self-interest, while others are just awful people. The only exceptions are Chit’s concerned friend Tong (Achita Sikamana) and his mother. Sakveerakul actually finds humor in all of this. Then you realize the comedy only underlines the dreadfulness of Chit’s situation.

The main story of 13 happens all in one day. This sense of urgency is welcome as it allows for non-stop adrenaline-fueled chills. There are no slow points in the story. The tasks range from mild to gross. Really, who doesn’t like a nice fresh plate of poo? 

A remake called 13 Sins and directed by Daniel Stamm was released in 2014. However this original goes further in explaining itself, whereas the remake has more mystery while also making room for a twist. Either way, both 13 films are dark fantasies that keep audiences' attention with a solid plot, then deliver their own unique conclusions that truly comment on the troubling state of society.

Share this article on: