13: Game Of Death aka 13 Beloved (2006)

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A psychological horror movie from Thailand that’s a little low on plausibility but right up there in terms of engrossing story and thought-provoking moral conundrums, fans of movies such as The Game and (at times) even Saw should find something to enjoy here.

Poor Pusit is having the day from hell. He’s in debt up to his eyeballs, just had his car repossessed and lost his sales job. And let’s not forget that he lost his girlfriend a little while ago. So when he receives a phone call from a stranger offering him a chance to compete in a game show for a life-changing sum of money he doesn’t need too much convincing. As the first challenge involves simply swatting a fly with a newspaper Pusit cannot envision what lies ahead as he attempts to complete all 13 tasks and win the big money. As the game progresses it becomes clear that Pusit will have to make some very difficult choices (as it also becomes clear that the maker of the game knows a lot about Pusit’s life).

There’s no excessive gore on display here (well, okay, there are one or two moments but nothing like the excesses of viscera we’ve seen in other movies of this ilk lately), no gratuitous nudity and no masked killer so it quickly becomes clear that 13: Game Of Death has to actually provide something a little bit different from the norm to make an impression. Thankfully, although the concept has been seen before, director Chukiat Sakveerakul puts enough little touches in there to ensure that we get something that is more than just the sum of it’s parts.

We do get the occasional gross-out moment (challenge 5 springs to mind) but it’s admirable that this film chooses to let things unfold in such a way that you stay with the main character (well played by Krissade Terrence) and keep rooting for him even as things become more . . . . . . . . morally unpalatable. Achita Wuthinounsurasit is also very good as Tong, the female colleague who stumbles across the reason behind Pusit’s behaviour and tries to help, she also acts as the standard moral compass that Pusit finds himself having to fight against.

The scariest thing about this horror movie is, perhaps, just how easy it is to believe that someone in such a bad situation could be dragged towards such behaviour with the promise of riches to make everything better. Once that reward has been tasted, the fear of it being completely removed is quite an extraordinary motivator.

While, as already mentioned, the movie doesn’t really stay plausible while it shows Pusit evading authorities and the lengths that the gameshow creators can go to to get things done it still manages to keep the viewer hooked in a way that (intentionally?) parallels the experience for those subscribing to view the game, surely. A smart,tense movie that provides  some enjoyable food for thought
Director: Chukiat Sakveerakul
Cast: Krissada Terrence, Achita Wuthinounsurasit, Sarunyu Wongkrachang, Nattapong Arunnate
Runtime: 114 min
Country: Thailand

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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