The 13th Child (2002)
THE 13TH CHILD: LEGEND OF THE JERSEY DEVIL - VOLUME 1
WRITERS: Michael Maryk and Cliff Robertson
DIRECTOR: Steven Stockage
STARRING: Cliff Robertson as Mr. Shroud
Lesley-Anne Down as Distrct Attorney Murphy
Christopher Atkins as Ron
Gano Grills as Mitch
Michelle Maryk as Kathryn
Robert Guillaume as Riley
QUICK CUT: Deep in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, lurks an ancient bit of American folklore, the Jersey Devil. Now, an investigator for the district attorney and a pair of cops will get down to the bottom of the mystery or die trying. Probably die trying.
Kathryn - An assistant with the the district attorny in New Jersey, and sent to investigate the possible Jersey Devil sightings. She's smart, doesn't take much crap, but also is kinda gullible to sit around and chat with the clearly evil guy.
Ron - A local cop that Kathryn meets up with in her investigations, and an old friend. He's a bit of a goof, but gets the job done.
Mitch - A not so local cop sent down from NYC to learn about procedures in the woods, to assist in cases that might require that stuff. He's street smart, and contrasts nicely with the others.
Riley - An older cop who was disgraced when his partner died 30 years ago under suspicious circumstances that he got blamed for. He once was a good cop, and an inspiration to other black cops, but has fallen into disgrace and increasing lack of sanity thanks to his time in asylums and believing in the Jersey Devil.
Mr. Shroud - A mysterious figure who likes to dress in priestly garments, except tinted red, and has lived in the exact spot where many sightings if the Jersey Devil are focused, for all his life, and his family has owned the land for 200+ years, the exact time the Devil has been rumoured to be around. Hmm!
THE GUTS: Welcome back once more, Triskelions, for the last of the 6th, 6th! 6TH!! anniversary reviews! With this movie, the last of the three 13 named movies, each one special on this 6th anniversary, each movie marking one great 6, and coming together today as the mark of the great Beast himself, I call forth with the mighty 666 and summon today's review, The 13th Child!
*lightning crashes and evil laughter is heard!!* *cough* Ahem. Anyways, let's see what the devil's child has brought us from the horrifying depths of...NEWWW JERRRRRSEEEEY.
On the upside, it starts out with a legit eye witness testimony and sketches from someone who claims to have seen the real Jersey Devil. On the downside, it almost makes this start off like the Blair Witch Project. Fortunately, it doesn't keep running with that idea.
After that bit of setup, we cut to Benson running through the forest calling out for RoboCop...er, his partner Murphy, but the instant he finds blood it cuts to 30 years later, on Halloween, and Benson now hanging out in an asylum. See, you go around insisting you're some guy's butler from a tv show, people are gonna lock you up.
The inmates are sitting around watching tv, and they're letting them watch a special on the Jersey Devil. Because that's great asylum viewing. It talks about the possible origins of it being the 13th child of a Native American shaman, who was transformed after he was hanged, into a grotesque monster, and oh he can shapeshift.
Following the televised infodump, Benson freaks out, calling out "I'm the only one who knows. I'm the only one who really knows!! Ahhh, but what do I know??" Well *I* sure don't know what you know, because apparenrly you're the only one who knows what you really knows!
With that, the movie jumps BACK to three days *earlier*. Okay movie, your time traveling license is being revoked. Pick a time zone and stick with it! Get me a calendar...
But that brings us to Kathryn, working for the DA, and being sent off to investigate the brutal murder of an escaped brutal murderer. Oh, and the DA thinks the Jersey Devil did it, hence why it's being kept quiet. Yeah, probably best to not go on the news and say you think the Jersey Devil killed your escaped convict, if you wanna keep your job!
The DA fills Kathryn in on her father being Benson's partner, and getting killed by the devil, so with all the backstory and motivations out of the way, we head back into the forest where a hunter is lurking about.
After doing his thing with a deer, and sitting in his truck for a VERY long time, the Devil finally decides to wander by and kill him before this goes on for another five minutes.
The hunter dozed off, and wakes up to find his deer is half gone, and the truck is shaking back and forth. Hey, if the truck's a-rockin', devils don't come a-knockin'!
We cut back to Benson still being dragged back to his cell...wait, so are we back on Halloween, or does this happen frequently? It doesn't help when the movie again tells us it's "Two days earlier" or the 29th. Back and forth, back and forth. Pick a time and close the door, I am not heating the whole time-space continuum!
There is this random-ass scene, after a LOT of driving, where Kat asks for directions, but the hunter she runs into is grumpy, and looking for a rattlesnake he lost. That's just...weird and random and why? She could have just made her way to the scene of the crime. The snake is unimportant, this is never mentioned again, it's just random and padding.
But she gets her directions, and eventually meets the other half of the cast, a pair of cops looking into the missing scumbag.
Well, Ron is a local cop, and his partner Mitch is on loan from NYC to learn a few things about cops in a more rural setting. They huddle around a chunk of body that eventually we find out is the missing ex-con. Case closed!
Oh wait, something important actually happens! Ron finds a very long claw in the water that is kinda sorta but not really but maybe near the body. They suggest it might be bears, but there are no Actual Bears around these parts.
And back at the asylum, Benson is talking out loud to no one, and no one is surprisingly answering back. Seems he took some bones from the murder a few decades ago, and held on to then, until the guards took it when they put him down for the night.
Which sends us back to Kate and the guys on their way to see Mr. Shroud. Now, did we jump forward and back again? There weren't any title cards, so I'm not really sure anymore. Was Benson in the future? And we're back in the past?
They arrive at Shroud's place in Shroudsbog county near the Shroudsbog river, so I guess this place is...shrouded in mystery. With a name like that, how can you not trust him, am I right?? But he doesn't appear to be at home, so they split up to check around his property, in vaguely defined geography that gets terribly confusing and doesn't help when they return to the same but different place later on.
Since he's not home, everyone leaves, and we jump forward to Halloween so Benson can jump back to 30 years ago. Ffffffff.
He runs scared, but trips in the woods, and runs into whom he thinks is...the devil. Some old guy in a hat and coat. Gasp no!
Back at Mr. Shroud of Turin's, Kate is about to leave, and sees the door where she left a note has been opened, so decides to poke inside. Because that's safe.
Inside, she finds a lot of deadly animals, snakes and spiders and scorpions of all kinds. And the most dangerous game of all...MAN...er, Mister Shroud himself.
They chat and share some wine, and the description is so perfect. "Bold, agressive, a little nutty..." Is that the flavour of the wine, Shroud, or are you describing yourself there?
Remembering that this is supposed to be a monster movie and not a movie where half the time is spent talking with Uncle Ben, the movie diverts to a pair of teens looking for a place to have sex, and they find the absolute worst spot. The guy takes her to this run down, abandoned trailer in the middle of the woods, that's covered in dirt and filth.
Ahh, true romance!
It's a good thing they're setting that up, because this movie is wallowing in long dialogue filled speeches with Uncle Ben sitting around and talking about he studies all deadly creatures, and the power of music. Get oooon with it.
He talks so damned much, that night has fallen, and he offers Kate a room for the night, and she accepts. Despite his weirdness, and the deadly animals roaming free, and the general creepy vibe. Why sure Mister Person I'm Investigating, I shall stay in your house of poisonous animals sure!
She shows him the mysterious claw, and asks him if he has ever seen it again. Rather than actually give a response, Shrouded in Mystery just walks away with his pet spider, Bruno.
The kids in the woods are meanwhile about to get it on, so it's time for the monster to att...no wait, first there's a jump scare with some other kids that spook them and make them run. They lightly bump into a tree, and the monster shows up and NOW it is time to att...no, we jump back to dinner at Shroud's. He's serving rice, I just know it.
During the night, Kate lurks around and watches some weirdness going on, and we catch a glimpse of Benson lurking around. But...this is 'two days ago' or whatever we've caught up to now? I thought he was in the asylum after his partner was killed? Did he get out to lurk in the forest? What, movie? WHAT??
She continues to sneak about, heading back into the house, and JUST so happens to stumble upon in Uncle Ben's study, hidden in a box with a hidden sliding front panel, in a drawer in that box, another mysterious claw matching the one she has.
That is *beyond* luck. How did she know to go straight for that box, that doesn't have any obvious opening?? It looks like the base of a lamp or something!
But now that she has another claw, she goes to her room to lay down, look at it, and stare at the ceiling. The thrilling action of THE 13TH CHILD!! Wasn't there a pair of teens about to get punished for having sex somewhere??
Following a lame flickering nightmare, a new day dawns and it's another day earlier...OH NO, the movie is going backwards in time! The time space continuum is broken! Call the Doctor!!
*ahem* I mean, it's October 30th. Wait...it's Devil's Night! FIRE IT UP! FIRE IT UP!!
Elsewhere, Ron and Mitch find the crashed truck, with the kids still in it, and we brace for the aftermath of the att...NO WAIT AGAIN, just them being perfectly okay. Really? Really, 13th Child? You couldn't have tossed me the slightest bone to keep things interesting here?
They pick up Kate and they head to the local coroner, to check out the rump roast they found, and have the claws analysed. She says Uncle Ben lied, that he never saw the claw before. BZZZT wrong movie. You don't even know your own story. He clearly just made a grumpy face and walked off. I would maybe let this slide, but they all stand their going, "He lied! He said one thing that was false! What else has he lied about??" Except he *didn't*. The movie is hinging things and suspicions on things it shows us *clearly did not happen*. If his lying was going to be a plot point *have him lie* damnit.
But let's get back to the thrilling action of examining the body!! Because who needs stuff to happen?!
Anyways, they do give some important plotty information at least, like the claw marks on the chunk of killer could only be made by something with claws longer than any local animal. Claws exactly matching what they have with them. Claws which have DNA from so many animals, it may as well be the next boy band. From goat, bat, reptile, spiders, and human. The dreaded reptibatgoatspiderman!
For bonus added rut roh factor, the two claws come from the exact same animal, AND are over 200 years old. The nonsensical things keep piling up!
So they head back to Uncle Ben's, with some actual evidence and suspicions, that are more than based on him lying when he actually didn't.
Mitch is already ahead of them though, and has gone on to a completely different location and building, and knocks on the door asking for Shroud. Why did we not establish this place earlier? They said he never leaves his place, so where is this, what is it, and why is Shroud believed to be there? It seems like they want this to be his place, but it's not and what?
I guess the more important question is why he has bags of blood and viscera on the table inside, but I'm getting Shroudsbogged down in the details.
Where are we?? What day is it? Why is this movie that isn't doing anything, so damned confusing?!
As Mitch is getting eaten, the other two arrive at the *actual* Shroud's place, so at least I have some idea of where we are.
They confront Uncle Ben about the claws, and he yells at the kids to get off his damned lawn, and slams the door in their faces. Well, that went well.
And thus our plot continues to grind to even more of a halt as the heroes walk away from the villain's home well into the third act because they don't have a warrant. This movie sure likes going nowhere as slowly as possible.
They head to the other place to find Mitch, wherever the hell it is, and boy do they find him! Well, most of him. His head has wandered off somewhere. But now it's personal for Ron, since his partner of a couple days has been beheaded. He was just two days away from being sent back to New York!!
Mitch and Kate head down into another other part of the barn, and find what they didn't want to find; a nine foot tall monster made up of every possible nightmare that tosses Mitch around while Kate runs.
She runs through a bunch of barns and halls and places we've never seen before and have no sense for, other than there's a monster on her heels.
And I mean that literally, because she finally turns around and comes face to fangs with the thing. Oh, and Shroud also wanders in, so if you thought they were teasing the possibility of him being the monster, well no.
In fact, the Jersey Devil is actually his brother, and occasional spider, Bruno. Wait...if Bruno is Uncle Ben's brother, does that make Spider-Man the son of the Jersey Devil?!
Just as Bruno is about to finish her off, there's a gunshot and Benson shows up from whatever day the fuck it is now, and shoots Shroud in the chest.
There's a LOT of talk in this movie about what Shroud's secret is, and they seem to hint at him being the monster, but then he says something about how the Jersey Devil cannot die while he lives. Although it's never clear HOW Benson supposedly know this secret?
And even though Shroud is shot, and we see a hole in the monster's chest, we then see it heal up? But then there's a pool of blood gushing over Benson after they leave? WHAT HAPPENED?! The movie suddenly stopped making sense here, and that was a pretty low bar in the first place.
We jump back...forward...sideways?! to "Present Day. October 31st." And if that isn't clear enough, the movie also tells you, "Now." Well, dur.
Kate leaves a phonecall for her boss, telling her Benson is in protective custody...but we already saw he's in an asylum on Halloween and...and what was the point of the time jumping, if it's not going to make sense? Seriously, you could've jumped from the 30 years ago, to October 28th, and just gone from there through each day. I'm like, 99% certain that's what actually happens, with Benson's scenes all happening in the same time as the investigation, but someone screwed up and kept jumping around.
...Except the instant I think that, because it actually makes *sense* the movie goes back to the asylum, where Benson is, still with his lost bones, so clearly they DO take place on Halloween, all of them.
Oh, and Bruno spiderwalks his way into the cell to finish off the poor butler.
And so the villains both walk off into the sunset, leaving pretty much everyone but Kathryn dead. That...that's a hell of an ending. Hell, it *isn't* an ending. Or satisfying. It's "People investigate monster and all end up dead except the monster". A downer ending is one of my favourite things in movies, but there's a way to do that which gives you some sense of closure. This...is not how.
Just to add insult to confusing injury, Shroud gives a voiceover during the credits, saying how Riley wanted to know his secret, but the secret IS the curse, and some things are better left unknown.
Dude, I'm still not sure WHAT the secret *was*, how it's a curse to (I suppose this was it??) know that the two are brothers. But the movie tries to sound *really really* important when it tells us this stuff, so it must be!
Oh, but it's STILL not done. Because after a *voiceover* we get a *phonecall* Uncle Ben leaves for Kate, saying they've gone into the woods, because mankind is SO UNkind.. Wahh. Waaaaahhh. We're murderers who go around beheading people and chopping them up! Whyyyy, whhhhhyyyy is mankind SO MEEEEAN to us and want to kiiiill us. Sob wahaaaahhhhh.
This...THIS is what comes from calling forth upon dark entities with the power of 666 and the might of the 13? This is the mighty Beast that rises forth? I am sending this monstrous turd back to Hell. Or worse, Jersey.
Video: It didn't look terrible, but the entire movie has this colour to it, an almost dull sepia tint. It actually almost works for a horror movie set around Halloween, really brings out the Autumness of it all, but I don't think it was intentional.
Audio: All right, I suppose.
Sound Bite: "I've never seen it before, and I've never seen it since!" That's how I describe most of the movies I've seen here.
Body Count: A respectable amount, but they teased the possibility of others that were just wastes of my time.
1 - A poor hunter finds out what it's like when the Jersey Devil drags him out of his truck, 21 minutes into the movie.
2 - They find a chunk of an escaped killer who died during the course of events, but off camera, and with the time jumps, who knows when?
3 - The Jersey Devil drops Riley's partner's headless corpse on the guy 30 years ago.
4 - Poor Mitch gets eaten by the Jersey Devil because he foolishly went into a barn alone.
5 - Ron gets tossed around and killed rather unceremoniously
6 - Spider-Man-Bat-Goat heads into Riley's cell and kills him
Best Corpse: Ugh, no one here stands out. They're either off camera, in the past, or never seen.
Blood Type - C+: And yet, there's puddles of blood scattered all over, and Benson nearly drowns in a river of it. Bits and pieces of animals all over the place. Just nothing from any of the dead hoomans. And a lot of points I award to the few brief glimpses of the monster, which actually border on awesomeness.
Sex Appeal: The sole purpose of the teens about to have sex must have been to sneak in some breasts.
Drink Up! Every time the time period changes. Goodbye, liver!
Video Nasties: I had a number of choices, but I decided to go with the money shot of the monster growing out of a pool of blood. It is sadly too short and quick to really love, but what we see looks damned cool.
Movie Review: Aaaaaaugh. This movie is such a waste. Robertson and Guillaume are well known actors, that are generally good. They are so wasted here. Although Robertson is the sole bright spot with a likable, charming, yet still creepily evil Shroud. The idea of the Jersey Devil is underused, and that's wasted. The plot is convoluted and goes nowhere, with the monster not really *doing* anything half the time, save for like, two people in the present day. People wander into the plot who SHOULD die, and don't, wasting more of my time. The filmmaking is competent enough, but overall, this is a mess that means well. Two out of five piles of glowbones. ...Which is another thing they don't address, the bones being protective, and why do they glow??
Entertainment Value: Watching Robert Guillaume stalking around a cell, whining, and acting crazy, is more fun than it should be. The monster, when it's around, is actually pretty good. The stuff with Robertson is so bordering on scenery chewing, and is a blast. But this movie typifies banality at the same time. It's so bland, and goes nowhere, when it could be doing so many things, but would rather sit around and stare wistfully off into the forest. Three out of five broken claws.