A generic but not completely worthless movie, 13 Eerie might not change any worlds but it contains a couple of scares, enough gore, and some interesting zombies that will allow you to almost justify spending 90 minutes with it. Is it ultimately worth the time? Probably not, but it doesn’t feel like a waste if it happens to be playing and you happen to be watching it. That’s always a possibility. You never know when the remote might be a step or two away and you’re far too lazy to get up to change the channel.
Set in an abandoned island that used to be used for prisoners, the film involves six forensic science students being taken outside to perform a field exam. Their professor (Michael Shanks) set up three exam sites, so the students are separated into teams of two in order to determine how long the body’s been there, cause of death, etc. Science stuff, anyway. He watches them over surveillance cameras and communicates via walkie talkies, as they’re too far off the beaten path to get cell phone reception.
The surprise of all surprises comes when zombies attack. Well, it starts with one group finding a corpse, asking if it was part of the exam, and then looking back and no longer seeing it. It disappeared. Soon after, people start disappearing. Eventually, the remaining members of the group get together and try to flee, either by killing the zombies or running away from them. Those not so lucky get turned and try to eat their former friends. How can you not at least have some sort of affection for this sort of tired premise?
13 Eerie takes longer to get to the zombie-killing action than you’d expect because of a clever idea: since the exam involves corpses, and the professor is known for tricking students, everyone believes it’s just him playing games on them. This is also the first time these students have worked with real corpses, so their psychological state might not be in the most solid of places. The zombies start by just running through bushes, only seen out of the corners of eyes.
After the killings start happening and being noticed, 13 Eerie plays out like your standard zombie film. You’ll notice entire scenes lifted from earlier and better movies. That doesn’t make them boring here — just derivative. There are a couple of unique scenes, which includes one scene of such incredibly hilarity that I almost want to recommend the movie based solely on it. I laughed harder at one point in 13 Eerie than in most comedies out there. It’s not a comedy but for one moment it becomes a great one.
What it isn’t is particularly scary. Because you’ve seen a lot of these scenes before, you know how they’re going to establish scares. If you know what’s coming, you’re not going to be frightened by it. The zombies are also shown too often and too early on, I think. The more you see something, the less scary it becomes. I can see why the filmmakers would want to show off the zombies, though, as their design is one of the film’s high points. A good amount of work has been put into the zombie costumes and makeup, helping to, well, bring them to life.
There’s also a substantial amount of blood and gore, so if that’s your thing, you won’t be disappointed. The inherent “ick” factor is present given that early scenes involve working with cadavers. Maggots and rotting flesh are both present, and I know that can make some people squirm. I think there’s a wasted opportunity here, though. These are forensic students, but that career path never plays into how they deal with the zombies. It’s just a way to get them to this location.
At least we don’t get superfluous back story about why the zombies are the way they are. We learn that biological testing was done in this location — unbeknownst to our protagonists — and that’s about all that we need. That allows director Lowell Dean to not slow down his directorial debut. The pacing is great, the cinematography is crisp, and there’s nothing wrong with it on a technical level. Some more polish makes it feel less generic, but playing it safe with a debut helps you get more work.
13 Eerie is a well-paced zombie movie with some good looking creatures, a couple of solid scares, and one hilarious scene of comedy. It’s generic to the bone, though, which means that a lot of it feels like something you’ve seen before. It starts out with a clever setup but eventually degenerates to a “zombies attack” movie. There’s little fundamentally wrong with it, and if it happens to be on television some night and you want to watch it, you’re not going to feel like you wasted your time.