A surprisingly entertained film
by Nav Qateel
I’ve always liked these types of single-location movies, where people’s lives or well-being are on the line based on whether they’re guilty, not so guilty, or, some other yet unknown factor; they eventually die one by one. The first one that made an impression on me was James Wan’s Saw, which spawned a highly successful franchise and also sent Wan on his way to becoming one the best horror masters in the business. There was also the little-known indie, and one I particularly liked for having Pollyanna McIntosh (Filth) co-star, titled, Exam, another single location thriller. The one that resembles, The Devil’s Dozen, most of all, is the recent horror, Would You Rather, which sees a group of people having to inflict horrific injuries upon themselves, rather than have an even worse one befall them. One such example is when someone has to slice their own eyeball in half.
The Devil’s Dozen, begins with a group of around twenty random people who’ve been snatched from seemingly random locations, then wake up in an underground-like structure, chained to walls and pillars. They are obviously scared but when three armed men appear and free only twelve of them from their chains (with a magical wave of a hand), the remaining folk get shot to death.
The chosen dozen are led into a large room with twelve chairs around a table and told that every twelve minutes, one of them will die, either by the others or it will happen by design; the choice is theirs. There is a knife and a gun on the table and they must decide which of them should die in the allocated time, depending on who deserves it the most, and this is where the story gets interesting as they confess their sins which are shown in flashback just how their crimes came about. This is one thing that I find odd; if it were me I’d claim to be a saint but this lot spill their guts in a game of oneupmanship. Go figure.
There are of course, some obvious candidates who should clearly get their comeuppance but as is the way of these things, nothing is that simple. Among their number is a preacher; a home-robbing murderer; a cop; a cancer survivor and a Waco-type cult leader, plus a few other questionable characters, all of whom, as we learn, aren’t the nicest of people. Only one of them can survive and will be set free, so they all must try to be the last one standing.
I’m a fan of Jake Busey who is great at playing off-centre characters, like one of his most memorable being the baseball bat swallowing convict in Identity, one of the best twisty films of its ilk. I mostly remember C. Thomas Howell from that brilliant 1986 film, The Hitcher, and while he’s been a hard working actor, Howell has never managed to hit the big-time, which isn’t a bad thing, however an actor working as long as he has, usually has that one big hit that throws them into the limelight, however briefly. Even with Spielberg’s E.T., and The Hitcher, Coppola’s 1983 classic, The Outsiders, must have been Howell’s 15 minutes. Gianni Capaldi is another busy actor with two just released in the last couple of months, Ambushed and Blood of Redemption, who is, coincidently starring alongside the named star of The Devil’s Dozen, Eric Roberts in the up and comming horror, The Wicked Within.
After the killings begin, the bodies mysteriously vanish with a room full of people failing to ever see when it happens. Most of the killings come as a surprise when they do happen, and just when you think you know what’s gonna happen next, something else seems to occur. I also thought I had the ending figured out, but I was very wrong about the whole way the movie finishes. This film was well written and executed, with some decent performances by an able cast, all thanks to actor and first-time feature director, Jeremy London, who really deserves credit for this being a tight, independent film with some solid twists, helped along, thanks to some nice turns of acting, which is no doubt because London is an actor himself. A surprisingly great little film that kept me interested, entertained and guessing.