13th ChildReviewed By Charles Tatum
Posted 01/14/04 02:16:20
Southern New Jersey is the location of a horrible scourge that is sweeping the country maiming everyone in its path- yes, micro budget horror films shot on video.New Jersey state attorney general Murphy (Lesley-Anne Down) sends underling Kathryn (Michelle Maryk) on an assignment. Twenty years earlier, Murphy's father was lost in the woods while looking for local mythic monster the Jersey Devil with his police partner Riley (Robert Guillaume). Riley went nuts after that night. Mutilated body parts are turning up in the woods today. The Devil has been in the woods for over two hundred years, the thirteenth child of a Native American shaman who is avenging his death using shape shifting abilities. Why he doesn't shape shift into a normal looking guy is beyond me.
Kathryn goes and meets with park ranger Ron (Christopher Atkins) and NYPD cop on special duty Mitch (Gano Grills). Kathryn and Ron may have been involved once, but that subplot is not pursued. They visit with the mysterious Mr. Stroud (Cliff Robertson), who knows more about the Jersey Devil than he is letting on. Kathryn conducts her investigation as local townsfolk end up killed, or scared out of their minds at seeing the giant creature lurking in the woods.
Cliff Robertson? Christopher Atkins? Robert Guillaume? Lesley-Anne Down? What are these name actors doing in this goofy slop? Robertson's name is also on the writing credits, let's hope he is not responsible for his sleep inducing conversations with Kathryn. The writers may have thought Shroud's ability to quote from the dictionary was menacing or eccentric, it just comes off as dumb.
Atkins as Ron is not given anything to do. He is a supporting character to Maryk's Kathryn, but their history is never explained. Robert Guillaume is also at a loss as Riley. The screenwriters jump back and forth in time almost immediately, which quickly confuses the viewer. Has Riley been locked away in the asylum all this time? Why does the Devil choose now to kill all these people?
The gore effects are okay, but some of them are actually real. According to the end credits (see, it pays to watch them all the way through), actual roadkill deer were used in many scenes. How would you like to be that guy? "Okay, Ted, put a hook through the dead animal's haunches, then tear the carcass in half, and baggie up the innards for the next shot..." The direction is okay, for shot on video. The Devil itself looks like a walking coat rack, and the director wisely keeps the monster in the dark through the whole film. The number of false endings rivals "The Talented Mr. Ripley," there is even dialogue over the end credits!The scariest aspect of this film (full title: "13th Child: The Legend of the Jersey Devil Volume 1") is the threat of a Volume 2, "Kill Bill" this ain't. Stay out of the southern New Jersey pine woods, stay away from Cliff Robertson, and stay away from this film.
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