“Locker 13” releases to select theaters and VOD on March 28.
While it shares the same name of an entry in R.L. Stine’s anthology, “The Nightmare Room,” the Kickstarter-funded “Locker 13” is in no way related to the young adult series. And, unlike most of the modern-day anthologies, “Locker 13” doesn’t come at you with tales of terror, blood, horror, and mayhem, but it does kind of tread those waters with some of its stories. This is done more in the fashion of the original “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits,” but without a narrator introducing the story to the audience.
The way “Locker 13” introduces its stories is through Archie (Jon Gries), a manager at a western-themed amusement park. He tells his newest employee, recently-released convict Skip (Jason Spisak), that everything has a story. Whether it’s a pair of boxing gloves or a voice recorder, there’s something interesting to be told with every object. And every story underscores the importance of making the right choice. By the end of four stories, the fifth and final turns to Skip, and how he must make the right decision in his life and with his new career.
After seeing the dreadful and disappointing “Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales,” “Locker 13” felt like the boost the genre needed, even though not all of the stories are on the same level of quality.
The ones that stand out:
“Down and Out”
Tommy Novak (Ricky Schroder) is an aging boxer, who’s trying to make a comeback. He’s had his gloves for quite some time, and he considers them to be his lucky pair. But when his opponents start dying in the ring, or getting very close to it, Tommy believes the gloves are controlling him.
Schroder gives a fascinating performance as the weathered Tommy, whose struggles inside the ring have greatly affected him outside. This is a hard-hitting drama with a bit of a supernatural twist that works.
“The Byzantine Order”
Eugene (Bart Johnson) is convinced by his best friend, Clifford (Curtis Armstrong), to join an organization of fez-wearing businessmen. But the new recruit discovers the initiation process is much more than he expected.
“The Byzantine Order” is the most cleverly written and well-executed of the stories. It’s humorous in some parts, contains some unexpected twists, and great performances from all involved.
This is the final story that brings it all together. After Skip has heard all the stories, he is left to clean the western set. He notices that all of the lockers look clean, except for Archie’s. And Archie tells him that he doesn’t want anyone touching his locker. There’s a reason behind that, too, and Skip contemplates whether he should listen to his boss, or figure out the secret behind locker 13.
Guess what? Skip opens the locker, and sees he has a doppelganger.
The ending is predictable, but it’s the acting by both Gries and Spisak that keep this baby moving. Both are outstanding – especially Gries, who has a slimy charm that can’t be shaken.
The ones that don’t work:
“The Suicide Club”
William (Alexander Polinsky) is thinking about jumping off a building, until a mysterious man named Jack (Jason Marsden) appears and tries to talk him down.
“The Suicide Club” doesn’t move from the rooftop. And while that’s a gutsy move, there really isn’t much in this story to attract any interest. Both of the characters are poorly developed, and the dialogue is rather bland.
Armando (Rick Hoffman) is a hitman who has captured three women and tries to figure out which one hired him for his last mission. And while he’s interrogating each one, he narrates their actions and records what he’s saying.
Hoffman makes a good hitman, but “The Author” doesn’t really hold any surprises. Not even the twists at the end are that shocking.
“Locker 13” is worth recommending for three of the five stories. The two that don’t work should still be watched, since they all share a connection.
And despite two weak stories, “Locker 13” is an intriguing anthology film, and it’ll be interesting to see where the filmmakers go from here – if they decide to stay with this genre, or go somewhere else for their next project.