Katharine Isabelle Vs. The Undead
13 Eerie (2013): 5 out of 10: In my review of Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning I said “honestly I can watch Katharine Isabelle all day long.” well here is a movie to put that to the test. 13 Eerie is a zombie film about six forensic undergrads completing a university field exam on a deserted island, oblivious that the island was previously used for illegal biological experiments on prisoners. Magic gunk flows on a cadaver or two, and a zombie movie is born.
The Good: Well it has Katharine Isabelle, and she doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the entire cast is solid with Michael Shanks as the professor as the other standout. The zombie effects are also top-notch. In fact, they are the star of the show. Focused on the practical with an aversion to cheap looking CGI they are competent and effective with enough realism to give one the yeah that is what a zombie would look like vibe.
I also can’t say enough about the premise. The idea of six undergraduates going to an abandoned location dressed as a crime scene for their forensic science final is so good that it seems wasted on a zombie movie. A zombie movie is one of the last things my imagination does with such a fresh low budget set up.
The Bad: You know my favorite part of any zombie film? That scene where the zombie attacks cross over a threshold and spills over to the general population. Sometimes movies start with these (Dawn of the Dead remake. World War Z) and sometimes movies end with these (The Return of the Living Dead). 13 Eerie is about six students, a professor and a stoner assistant on an island. There are no zombies in the mall or zombies attack shoppers on Black Friday. You could substitute a giant anaconda, hockey masked serial killer or Glenn Close, and the movie would play out about the same.
The Ugly: Now I am not one of those who picks on a lack of proper motivation and background for topless camp counselor number 2 in I Slashed The Summer Camp Part Six. But it is not a bad thing to have. 13 Eerie has the time to develop the characters (the first zombie attack isn’t for thirty minutes) but chooses not to. Now a zombie movie doesn’t have to be Jane Austen (Though Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has proved that a winning combination.) But at the very least give us some tropes to hang our hat on, (you know the fat one, the slutty one, the warrior hero with the ambitious wife concerned by the prophecies of the Witches; that kind of thing)
Even that silliest of nature gone wild films Day of the Animals did some character development (Well trope development) before the action began. (The fighting couple on the verge of divorce, The overbearing Jewish mother stereotype, The slutty news anchor, ect.)You had thirteen characters and while you might not remember their names they were all distinct before the first hawk stole a baseball cap.
In 13 Eerie we have five white men and two white women and outside of recognizing the actors from other work (hey it’s that guy (Brendan Fehr) from Final Destination or hey it’s that guy (Jesse Moss) from Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) there is no way to tell them apart. I mean, I naturally root for Katharine Isabelle in any movie. (Freddy vs. Jason vs. Katharine Isabelle as far as I am concerned) but even her character doesn’t take shape until after a couple of munchings.
In story development, there is a part where you are told the importance of setting up a place and the location of people in that place. 13 Eerie has real issues with this. There are supposed to be on a swampy island (they take a boat there) but then end up driving off the island and end up in a prairie. Plus Michael Shanks disappears for a large chunk of the second half of the film as if the screenwriter (Christian Piers Betley) had forgotten he was in the movie. He shows up in the end, but how he got to the same prairie is a mystery.
In Conclusion: Having sat through plenty of bad zombie movies with bad special effects and an out-of-focus shaky cam that could give one motion sickness. This is not one of those films. This is a solid zombie movie with superb practical special effects and a good cast. Too bad outside of an excellent premise, the script lets us down on both the character development and zombie chaos departments.