Psychological horror is no substitute for the supernatural
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/30/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The original title of this Spanish film is "Trece campanadas," which translates as "Thirteen Chimes," and as you watch the prologue the meaning of that title becomes clear. In Europe the English title was "Thirteen Chimes," and that was the title that was used Internationally, along with "When the Bell Chimed 13." So why it shows up on our shores as "13 Curses" can only be explained that such a title better indicates that this is a horror film and not a movie about musical bell ringers or anything like that.
Actually this 2002 film is about sculpture and schizophrenia. When he was a child, young Jacobo (David Alvarez) was being taught by his father, Mateo (Luis Tosar), how to sculpt, but the lessons are not going well. When his mother Carmen (Elvira M?nguez) shows up to take the boy away, there was a struggle between the two and a gun went off. We then jump to the present, with Jacobo (Juan Diego Botto) now a young man who has been called home to Santiago by his foster mother. Apparently he thought both of his parents died, but only his father was shot and killed. His mother has been institutionalized in mental hospitals and is afraid to talk to him, warning him to stay away from Santiago. But Jacobo returns to his father's studio, where all of his work remains, ableit covered in cobwebs.
Jacobo contacts thee curator at the museum, Claudia (Laura Mana), who has been collecting and exhibiting Mateo's work. It turns out she was his father's mistress, and she is interested in having Jacobo complete his father's final project. This is a sculpture of a set of figures intended for the local cathedral. Not only does Claudia want Jacobo to do this, so does Mateo, who begins appearing to his son, saying that he has to use Jacobo's hands to finish his work. This might sound like a good idea, but Mateo has other things he wants to do with his son's hands that have little to do with art.
Directed by Xavier Villaverde ("Finisterre, donde termina el mundo," which was about a family at the end of the world), this Spanish horror film starts off with some closeups of Mateo's statues that suggest what is going to happen is going to be along the lines of "Bucket of Blood." But that proves not to be the case, because "13 Curses" is going in a different direction. Clearly I have come to expect supernatural explanations in such circumstances, but that is reading too much into what is happening this time around. Ultimately the problem is not that what is going on ends up being something of a surprise, but rather that the revelation evokes a response along the lines of, "oh, is that all." This is too bad because the performances are decent enough and Villaverde shows technical competence, although the film relies too much on Javier Navarrete's score to remind you this is a horror film. But while this one gets your interested up front, it fails to deliver on the backside."
Dancing Ganesha | Bangalore, India | 03/06/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film is rather mediocre. The story could have been much more interesting had it not been so conventional regarding the main storyline. I thought that the main actor was very handsome and interesting -- it would have been great to see him be able to do something more complex than this; still, given the material, he did a great job."