DAY 13 Dishes Up Summertime Neighborhood Paranoia

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Day 13 (2020)
Directed by Jax Medel
Written by Dan Gannon and Walter Goldwater
Produced by Richard C. Brooks
Unrated, 91 min

Breaking Glass Pictures will release their new movie Day 13 in just a couple of days, and what better time of year to watch a teen-oriented horror-thriller in the comfort of your own air-conditioned home than COVID-fueled summer?

Directed by Jax Medel, the movie stars: Alex MacNicoll (The Society, 13 Reasons Why) as Colton, Genevieve Hannelius (American Vandals, Dog with a Blog) as Heather, Martin Kove (yes, of Karate Kid fame) as Heather’s father, Meyrick Murphy (Kubo and the Two Strings, The Walking Dead) as Colton’s little sister Rachel, and JT Palmer (The Ben Show with Ben Hoffman, Funny or Die Presents…) as Colton’s friend Michael.

Colton’s self-absorbed mother leaves him in charge of his little sister while Mom departs on a 16-day girls’ trip. Soon after Mom’s departure, Colton becomes acutely interested in the father and adopted daughter who’ve moved across the street into a long-abandoned yet strangely pristine house. Colton invests several hundred dollars in surveillance cameras to monitor his new neighbors; cash flow is apparently not a problem for this kid. Eventually, natch, Colton meets Heather, the daughter inhabiting the now surveilled house; friendship and romance follow. With a little more time and surveillance, Colton begins to suspect that Heather’s father has nefarious plans in mind for his ward, and Colton prepares to act. Which, of course, goes completely sideways.

MacNicoll is old-Hollywood handsome with just enough affable awkwardness to keep him approachable, and the sincerity with which he plays Colton evokes Anton Yelchin (I may never recover from that too-soon departure, honestly). Hannelius balances her character nicely between guarded/mysterious and open to/interested in MacNicoll’s character, but with her eyes and cheekbones, Hannelius would be mesmerizing on screen regardless of her performance quality. Murphy’s Rachel is one-dimensionally annoying; I would have liked a stronger, more nuanced performance to have been pulled from her. Finally, JT Palmer plays Colton’s funny, supporting black friend adequately, but having just watched the documentary Horror Noire, I’m a little more attuned to his under-use as a character.

Outside of the performances, the strengths of the movie include the setting and the music. The house that Heather and her father move into is fascinating, with intriguing indoor ironwork, beautiful bookcases, and other knick-knacks that establish it as occult-y. Kudos for the location and set. The score by Evan Goldman also enhances the mood and would be a welcome addition to any horror-thriller; given how easily films about endangered teenage paramours slip into banality, a score that provides some heft is a welcome addition to the mix.

Nits include pacing, special effects, and the ending. At an hour and a half long, the movie is the perfect length for a horror-thriller; it lags a little in the ten to twenty minutes before the ending gets underway in earnest, so schedule your bathroom break for about this time. Special effects are decent, but could have used just a bit more polish; can’t say more without giving away too much. The ending’s reveal will likely catch few viewers off-guard, and the final scene felt more like an abrupt halt to production than a true ending.

Day 13 joins other neighbor-obsessed flicks such as Disturbia, Fright Night, and Summer of ’84; how does it compare? Are there better movies in the genre? Yes, but is it worth a watch? Overall, I’d say the movie is watchable. If you are a highly evolved, critical fan of the horror-thriller genre, it may not be the right fit for you. But if you’re looking for a film that serves up a little romance and a little scare (but not too much), Day 13 would fit the bill.

Day 13 will be released August 4th on the following platforms: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Xbox, Playstation, Vudu, Fandango & Vimeo.

 

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