Canadian horror film “13 Eerie” is a good old-fashioned splatter fest with some truly gruesome moments. Directed by first-time director Lowell Dean it features a small group of characters in an isolated area under attack by those ever-reliable movie monsters: zombies. Working with a relatively small budget, Dean seems to have spent most of the money into the special effects, which for the most part are all practical. Gore hounds rejoice.
At the site of a former penitentiary, a group of forensic students are about to test their skills on actual dead bodies. Their supervisor professor Tomkins (Michael Shanks) has placed three corpses around the island of 13 Eerie Strait and it is their job to figure out their cause of death. The group is divided into three teams who have to examine their crime scenes without outside help and can only communicate with Tomkins by walkie-talkie. Throughout the test Tomkins keeps an eye on them through a network of video cameras placed all over the site.
Apart from its obviously foreboding name, 13 Eerie is one creepy place. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the place has such bad voodoo even the wildlife seems to have moved away from the woods. Larry (Nick Moran), an ex-con who drove the group to the site, issues dire warnings based on rumors he heard from one of the prison’s former occupants. There were talks of experiments being done on the prisoners and of poison being leaked into the water supply. Tomkins the practical scientists dismisses Larry as an idiotic redneck and tells him to focus on preparing the students’ meals instead.
Unfortunately, some rumors are more than just rumors. As night falls things start to go very wrong. The walkie-talkies stop working, the cameras go offline, and Larry discovers a fourth body in a tool shed. Even worse, that extra corpse comes back to life, chases one of the students into the woods and starts eating away. In the dead of night there are suddenly a lot less living people at 13 Eerie and a lot more walking dead.
Every horror movie needs a scream queen and that honor falls on Canada’s Katharine Isabelle. Her character Megan is the kind of person you want in a corner during a zombie attack. She is smart enough not to go running outside by herself when she realizes something is clearly wrong and instead barricades herself in a shed. When a zombie breaks through the floor she uses her knowledge of chemistry to make him explode. That alone should give her A.
The film’s makeup department also deserves an A for creating some very hideous undead monsters. These aren’t zombies who died two minutes ago in their business suits and have a little bit of blood on their faces. These are huge corpses who are covered with dark dead skin from head to toe, emit guttural snarls as they run at you, and are strong enough to tear a man apart.
Once the zombie attacks really takes off the story falls back on the usual horror story clichés such as a vehicle stalling at the worst possible moment and the characters making the mistake of splitting up. Seriously, doesn’t anyone ever know it’s better to stick together in an emergency?
It takes a little too long for the blood to finally hit the fan, but once it does “13 Eerie” is a solid zombie film that shows a promising debut for a new filmmaker who clearly has a love for practical effects and fake blood. Of course, the door is left wide open for a sequel.
(“13 Eerie” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.)