Directed by: John Langridge
Starring: Kevin Leslie, Morgan James, Jacob Anderton, Terri Dwyer, Tony Cook, Greg Draven, Michael McKell, Glen Salvage
Frank and Terry are violent hitmen working for a stern matriarch called Maddy. On their latest job, they have to get rid of a traitor to the gang, taking them out to the same forest they've used many a time to bury the bodies. However this time there is a twist, a daring attempt at an escape and an encounter with a group of vagrants performing paganist rituals…
13 Graves isn’t the first gangster/horror mash-up to come along (From Dusk Til Dawn, Rites of Spring, etc) but it is a damn good example of the genre.
Set (presumably?) in Epping Forest, the film starts with the principals of the gang - boss Maddy, her son Billy, and Frank and Terry. They've arrived on the outskirts of the forest to make a deal with a rival gang to sell their heroin.
Anyone who has watched a movie drug deal knows that this is going to be a set-up and someone is turning traitor. However Maddy is already two streets ahead and has prepared for this moment. Its fascinating to see how it unfolds onscreen, the way certain characters in the background start making, slow, deliberate, ominous moves.
I was very much reminded of Miller's Crossing, as Frank and Terry take their captive through the woods, as he starts begging for his life. However this resemblance to the Coen classic soon melts away with the arrival of a giant Scotsman and an escape attempt which reveals some horrific "offerings" inside a derelict house.
The film evokes the likes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn, or any other film where people sneak around a creepy location making grizzly discoveries they don't understand but are disturbed by on a primal level. There's a great little moment when a character spots a bowl covered with a cloth…he walks away…then pauses and turns, his curiosity getting the better of him. And you know what they say about Curiosity…!
The film's setting is classic horror fare - a seemingly unoccupied forest, perfect for disposing bodies in but equally perfect for concealing all sorts of supernatural weirdness when the sun goes down. The film does make very good use of it though, utilizing a number of different locations so you don't get the effect of "running down the same corridor" you'd get with other films of a similar budget.
Unfortunately that doesn't mean your patience might fray, watching these characters wandering around. The film is interspersed with little flashbacks (which come to mean something by the end of the film), and the pace of the film would have benefitted from these moments being fleshed out at the expense of some of the walking and chasing.
It’s a small niggle in an otherwise well made horror thriller. The production design is very good, the characters well-drawn and the camera-work very good indeed (one particular scene takes on Michael Bay-style swirls around the two main characters). The cast is uniformly good too - the faces will be familiar if you're a fan of the cockney gangster genre and it was great to see up-and-coming actors such as Glenn Salvage and Tony Cook getting some good scenes.
Despite some drawn out sequences, 13 GRAVES delivers on a great atmospheric story with some solid twists and turns. Writer and director John Langridge has done a great job of mashing the cockney gangster and survival horror genres together.
8 out of 10 - RECOMMENDED
13 GRAVES is available to stream/download online from all good streaming sites.