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Review Recollection - 13: Game of Death (2008)

Chris is a member of the Houston Film Critics Society and a writer/contributor at Bounding into Comics and God Hates Geeks.

The official DVD cover for, "13: Game of Death."

The official DVD cover for, "13: Game of Death."

What Do You Have to Lose?

Chit is having one of the worst days anyone could possibly have. Prame, the guy who always seems to outsell everyone else in the office, swiped a sale right out from under his nose, then his car was repossessed, then he lost his job, he has bills piling up, and his mom's asking him for money. He has no idea what to do. And then he gets a strange phone call. Whoever it is knows all about him. They're offering him a chance to make something of himself. He's been selected to be a contestant on a game show. What does Chit have to lose?

As the game progresses, Chit finds out that he can win up to 100 million baht (or $3,130,086 US dollars) if he completes 13 challenges. The only problem is that not only do the challenges get more and more disturbing as the game goes along, but they're also getting darker and more twisted. There are rules to the game and if Chit breaks any one of them, the game ends and he loses everything. Will Chit still be left standing by the time this is all over? Will his financial problems be solved?

This is a reformatted review from over a decade ago. 13: Game of Death, also known as 13 Beloved, was released on DVD on March 11, 2008. It was remade as 13 Sins in 2014 by Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) for The Weinstein Company and stars Mark Webber. The names of characters in 13: Game of Death are also different depending on which version of the film you watch. The main character is named Phuchit and referred to as Chit throughout the majority of the film, but he’s Chad in the English dub. The horror comedy was released under the now extinct Dimension Extreme label and had a fairly misleading DVD cover; a seated white figure in a wheelchair in what looks like a hooded straitjacket seemingly waiting for the impending bloodbath. This is actually a clever thriller that is probably smarter than it seems.

As Hollywood continues to fall victim to popular trends and milking franchises to death (the lethargic box office reaction to Solo: A Star Wars Story comes to mind), foreign films have almost always been reliable sources for unique bursts of creativity; Thai films in particular are rather original as a whole. 13: Game of Death is co-written and directed by Matthew Chookiat Sakveerakul, co-written by Eakasit Thairaat (writer of Tony Jaa's The Protector 2), and stars Krissada Sukosol Clapp (Clapp’s first acting credit is from a 2003 film called The Adventure of Iron Pussy which is apparently about a transvestite secret agent and sounds incredible).

Krissada Sukosol Clapp as Phuchit Puengnathong/Chad in, "13: Game of Death."

Krissada Sukosol Clapp as Phuchit Puengnathong/Chad in, "13: Game of Death."

13: Game of Death has shades of, “wanting to play a game,” like the Saw franchise, but Sakveerakul and Thairaat put a different spin on the concept, hammered out a well-developed story, and birthed a shocking thriller with rising tension. The computer generated imagery (CGI) or special effects utilized in the film are lacking at times and are below par, but the film doesn’t rely on them and the lackluster effects are used sparingly. You really start to sympathize with Chit though; the way he throws everything on the line to get his life back on track makes you realize there’s nothing he won’t do to make his life a little easier.

Foreign films are much more likely to push the boundaries of what the audience finds disgusting or grotesque. This has changed in the years since 13: Game of Death was released on DVD, but foreign films still tend to include concepts American films attempt to distance themselves from at least as far as mainstream appeal is concerned. The ending of 13: Game of Death is loaded with controversy. It is meant to make you think and frustrate you. That ending isn’t well-received in the online community; more reviewers disliked or downright hated the conclusion than the ones who enjoyed it. As the game gets into its closing stages, Chit keeps telling himself that he’s still human even after his horrific actions over the course of the film. The ending fits that logic and fits the nature of the film.

Krissada Sukosol Clapp as Phuchit Puengnathong/Chad in, "13: Game of Death."

Krissada Sukosol Clapp as Phuchit Puengnathong/Chad in, "13: Game of Death."

13: Game of Death can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys well-crafted thrillers that know how to push the buttons of the audience. There’s a surprising amount of character development, a ton of suspense, momentum that snowballs as the film progresses, and it all builds toward an ending that you may not be expecting. 13: Game of Death introduces how ugly, ferocious, and selfish human nature can be; morals, sins, and compassion are thrown out the window for greed and desperation. What would you do for $3 million?

13: Game of Death is currently available on DVD ($12.25) and can be streamed on iTunes ($3.99), Amazon Video ($9.99), Youtube ($9.99), and Google Play ($9.99).

© 2018 Chris Sawin