13TH CHILD *1/2
2002 - R - 99 min. - Artist View - dir. Steven Stockage
Somewhere far below Bigfoot on the ladder of American mythical beasts, youâ€™ll
find the Jersey Devil. A local legend for over two centuries, the Jersey Devil is a giant
bat-wolf-man thing that eats anyone unlucky enough to venture alone into an area in the
southern part of the state known as the Pine Barrens. Itâ€™s a great myth, really, and
interesting fodder for a good olâ€™ monster movie. Too bad, then, that all we get is 13th
Child, a low budget cheapie thatâ€™s boring, confusing, and just plain dumb.
The hole-laden plot finds Trenton D.A. Murphy (Lesley-Anne Down) investigating
the murder of an escaped convict, whose various mutilated body parts have been washing
up along the river in the Pine Barrens. For some reason, sheâ€™s being helped by a dopey
park ranger (a barely recognizable, still untalented Christopher Atkins) and his assistant, a
NYPD cop (Gano Grills) reassigned to south Jersey, the idea being that learning about the
great outdoors will help him with his Central Park beat. Or something.
Meanwhile, thereâ€™s Riley (Robert Guillaume, of all people), a cop/renegade Jersey
Devil hunter whoâ€™s locked up in a mental ward, ranting about the monster and getting
pumped full of sedatives. At least, thatâ€™s whatâ€™s happening on October 31; the movie
jumps back and forth in time, rewinding a few days to when Rileyâ€™s just fine, spending his
days and nights in the woods, hunting the beast and whatnot. (Plot hole number 74: Riley
goes from being rational, cool Devil hunter to babbling psycho ward patient in, if the
movieâ€™s time frame is accurate, about thirty minutes. Huh?)
All clues point to a local weirdo known as Mr. Shroud (Cliff Robertson), who
dresses in black, wears his long black hair in a ponytail, and converses with his hundreds
of pet reptiles and arachnids. Mr. Shroud also has the areaâ€™s largest collection of
poisonous plants, which youâ€™d think wouldâ€™ve clued the cops onto him a long time ago.
The rest of the plotâ€™s a jumble, something about the Jersey Devil being an ancient
Indian shapeshifting spirit, and Mr. Shroudâ€™s connection to it is... um... letâ€™s see here...
well, that didnâ€™t make much sense, so... hmm... Well, it turns out knowing the end of the
film doesnâ€™t mean knowing how any of it makes sense. All I know is that the story tries to
mix supernatural cultish themes with monster movie spookiness, slasher gore, and serious
mystery, with no success.
Along the way, a few locals are attacked by the Devil, or at least a large, sticky
puppet version of it. There are also a couple of kids who run off thinking they saw the
beast, only it was only their friends pretending to be the beast, only it doesnâ€™t even matter
because none of this has anything to do with the plot. Add a handful of scenes just like
this one and youâ€™ll see how the movie turns out. (Thereâ€™s also a documentary-like
interview with a supposed Devil witness before the opening credits, and yup, it has
nothing to do with anything.)
Thereâ€™s nothing in this movie that makes a lick of sense. Itâ€™s a mess of bad writing
and confusing editing, with plenty of flat acting to fill in the gaps. Worse, thereâ€™s not a
single effective scare in the entire picture (although a few gruesome images of deer
carcases and severed human torsos manage to earn the film a few rare creeps). 13th Child
is a pile of half-formed horror movie ideas crammed together in ways that never fit, never
thrill, never frighten, never entertain.
13th Child is also being released as 13th Child: The Legend of the Jersey Devil,
Volume 1. This implies a Volume 2 is on the way, a fact that makes me rather sad.
RENT INSTEAD: The Wicker Man
ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Mothman Prophecies
bruset said:FWIW, The Wicker Man is a great flick.
njvike said:Oh well. I really thought they had something there. Perhaps, the wrong director and cast? Seems to me the story of the Jersey Devil would be a great one to make a movie on.
I think I will rent it just to see what places they filmed at.
Ken, and all,
I have seen the trailer for the movie, and you can clearly see places in it you'll recognize. I'll leave it at that.
For another movie filmed in the Pine Barrens, check out Fallen, which came out in 1998. It starred Donald Sutherland and Denzel Washington. It was filmed in the woods near Bel Haven Lake, and also at or near some college in PA.
http://movies.warnerbros.com/fallen/ I taped it off TV and I liked it. It was quite imaginative, IMO.
foofoo said:rented the dvd last night. what a horrible job. not much real to it at all. actors could have been better.