The Devil’s Dozen is a supernatural horror/thriller where twelve strangers find themselves in a life or death game where sins are judged and every choice a testament to their character. The innocent must strive to maintain their integrity, while the guilty can only hope their deaths lead to the truly innocent walking out alive.
At one time or another, most actors would like to be able to call the shots on their films. I’m sure it’s an ego trip sort of thing but it happens. I’m not saying this is the case with all actors turned directors, just a percentage. It was refreshing to see an actor jumping behind the camera to helm his first feature and not star in it. Hell, his appearance was barely even a cameo.
Jeremy London, who may be best known as TS Quint from the Kevin Smith slacker comedy MALLRATS, has chosen to helm this interesting little thriller and does a fine job his first time out. THE DEVILS’S DOZEN is a single location film with a large group of people forced to kill one another. I know, we’ve seen it all before but there are a few twists and turns that will set this just a pinch above most others. Helping London out are appearances by people like C. Thomas Howell, Eric Roberts, William McNamara, and Jake Busey. Though the film does manage to hold your interest, it does suffer from a few script issues, most notably, hokey dialogue. You can’t have everything I suppose but it’s still a worthy effort.
The film opens when a large group of strangers (twenty or so) wake up to find themselves in some sort of warehouse and chained up. A group of armed men step into the room and inform everyone that a dozen of them will be worthy enough to compete for their lives, the rest will die. The dozen remaining strangers are taken into a room with a large table and they’re given a task.
They must decide who is the most deserving to die. One person must die every twelve minutes and they must deliberate on who will die next and who will survive. It won’t be an easy decision to make but with the hysteria of the situation kicking in, they will have to try and think as rationally as they possibly can. One by one they die by various methods as we learn a little bit about each person and the sins they have committed to find themselves locked in the room. Who will survive?
While the acting in the film is solid, it’s the script by Judy Dinella and Patrick Durham (both actors turned writers) where I have a few issues. I guess you never really know what you will do or say if you were in an extraordinary situation similar to one presented in the film but some of the dialogue was a bit hard to swallow. Certain lines just seemed to miss their marks entirely. It could have been the writing or maybe even in the delivery, just certain things came out wrong and were a pinch overly dramatic. It’s easy to overlook much of it since director London does a fantastic job at pacing the movie. Right from the opening moments he draws you into the situation then is able to keep the train rolling at a brisk pace.
Seasoned actors like Howell, Busey, and McNamara seem as if they are only there long enough to inspire the more inexperienced members of the cast into delivering fine performances themselves.
People like Omar Gooding, Dante Basco, Erik Aude, Sammy Durrani, and Gianni Capaldi have been around for years but are all given moments of their own in the film. It’s tough to really get attached to any of the characters since many are dispatched right away and there is very little development but most if it works anyways.
THE DEVIL’S DOZEN is a solid first effort for Jeremy London who most definitely has a career as a director if that’s the path he chooses to continue pursuing. There are some surprising twists and a few standout performances which make the film well worth your time and rental coins. *** (out of 5)