Colton Fremont (Alex MacNicoll) is about to spend his next two weeks the last way any teenager would ever want – babysitting his little sister, Rachel (Meyrick Murphy). Colton is full of every kind of teen angst – not the least of which being because his mom Lisa (Darlene Vogel) is ditching him and sis to go to Barcelona for two weeks with “the girls”. Rachel was supposed to be going to camp, but it got cancelled at the last minute, so all of Colton’s plans of having the place to himself and enjoying the beginning of his summer break are totally dashed.
With the most impeccable timing, a weird new neighbor moves in right when mom leaves. Colton can’t help but be a little suspicious as he eyes his creepy new neighbor – and his creepy new neighbor’s young, beautiful daughter. Colton keeps a close eye on them – going as far as to install a security system with cameras trained on their home – and when he bumps into the young and beautiful part of the family, he finds a fast friend in Heather (Genevieve Hannelius). She’s smart, funny, lovely, and just mysterious enough. He invites her out to the lake with him and his best friend Michael (JT Palmer). However, Heather tells Colton her dad is too strict and keeps too close of an eye on her, so she won’t be able to make it. This only piques Colton’s interest more, and he decides to watch more carefully. Slowly but surely, Colton sees more than he ever wanted, and begins to unravel the sordid story of Heather and her adopted father, Magnus Torvald (Martin Kove). Soon, he has to make a choice – if he calls in the authorities, he has to reveal himself as being a “peeping Tom” this whole time. But he can’t let Heather be in danger any longer. Something sinister is afoot, and there’s something very wrong with this Torvald character, but the deeper Colton digs, the less he seems to understand.
DAY 13 takes Colton, and us, on a journey that seems slow, simple, and fascinating, and little by little amps up until we’re hitting curves at one hundred miles an hour. This story takes twists and turns with impeccable handling, leaving us with just the perfect amount of thrilling whiplash. This story is layered and has twist after twist, which is a definite thrill, but also means that it ends with an unfortunately brief and rapid fire download of “what we may have missed”. This is a trick used often in films today – rather than leaving breadcrumbs along the way, things are explained right at the very end, with retroactive “cut scenes” and additions to what we saw on the first pass. It’s clever, and at times can be incredibly successful, but in 2020 is just a bit tired.
Genevieve Hannelius is a stunner – giving us just enough sass and fierceness to rest on, with a splash of unexpected vulnerability. At no point is she the damsel in distress – no matter how much Colton imagines her to be – but she hides her strength just beneath the surface, like when you sail over the deep ocean and know there’s a whirlwind of life beneath. She gives a standout performance that I hope will go down in the annals of strong female leads – and incredibly women of horror.
I’ve definitely made this point in other reviews before, which may seem unfair to some filmmakers, but it needs to be said – DAY 13 suffers from “bad poster syndrome”. The poster is a misrepresentation of the film, and also gives away much too much. A misleading, and in this case overwrought, poster is an immediate mark against a film in my book. If the title, tagline, and poster don’t make me want to see your movie… then why are they there in the first place? It’s basic marketing and too often it goes underappreciated.
DAY 13 is devilishly nuanced, clever, and unexpected. I’m always thrilled to be thrown off the scent of a story like this, and with just the right amount of misdirection, DAY 13 fulfills that thrill.
|Runtime:||1 hr 30 Mins.|
Dan Gannon, Walter Goldwalter