The Best '13' Films Without Jason Voorhees
Another year, another time where the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, and another opportunity to associate the occasion with the classic slasher franchise Friday the 13th, right? WRONG. Instead, the Talk Film Society staff have decided to bring you a list of 13 films featuring the number 13 in the title, for those who feel like its getting a bit stale to keep watching a deranged psycho in a hockey mask kill sexy teens. Additionally, if you're the type of person who has a lot of free time, you may even want to marathon a couple of these together.
The 13th Warrior (1999)
The 13th Warrior had a tough and turbulent journey getting to the big screen. The title was changed from the cool sounding Eaters of the Dead to the limp moniker of The 13th Warrior, test audiences hated the first cut, director John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) left the project leaving Michael Crichton, who wrote the book the film is based on, to take over with reshoots, delaying the project two years. Wacky production history aside, I will always go to bat for the end result. Antonio Banderas plays a man of Islamic faith (funny, I know) who hooks up with the wrong lady and is basically banished from his homeland, forcing him to go on a perilous mission far, far way that may inevitably kill him. Eventually he crosses paths with a band of Vikings. Together they investigate a major problem, a mysterious force that is killing off a lot of Viking villagers and eating them to add insult to injury. You can see how this poses a quite a threat to the “die in combat” lifestyle the Vikings pride themselves on. Earning each step as they unfold the mystery, this unlikely team of heroes tackle the unseen horror head on and they find tons of honor in the process. With so many damn problems plaguing this film, it should be by all accounts unwatchable, yet it is a tough and rugged gem from the year 1999 that should be given a fair shake.
- Rockie Juarez
Dementia 13 (1963)
The first feature film from legendary director Francis Ford Coppola (not counting the two skin flicks he made the prior year), was produced by Roger Corman, the king of B-movies and low budget genre fare. The story concerns a young woman who accidentally causes the death of her husband while on vacation at his family's estate, and then attempts to get written into her mother-in-law's will. Her plans are halted by the sudden appearance of a deranged killer who begins to do away with each member of the family one by one, in classic slasher tradition. The film was meant to be a cheaply produced, trashy clone of Hitchcock's Psycho, but Coppola's urge to explore his confines as a director led to clashes with Corman, eventually resulting in him being replaced by director Jack Hill to finish what scenes still remained. While you're not going to find any hockey masks in Dementia 13, it is a slasher film with the number 13 in the title, so it's a decent substitution (plus, it's available in the public domain!).
- Rob Trench
13 Assassins (2010)
Director Takashi Miike is amazingly prolific. In the last ten years, he’s managed to direct 25 features, ranging from gangster films, sci-fi fantasies, and musical romances. Among those films is 13 Assassins from 2010, a Japanese period drama set in the 1840s, revolving around thirteen samurai plotting to kill a corrupt lord. A remake of the 1963 film of the same name, Miike’s take on the few-versus-many samurai tale is rightfully somber and collected for its first half. The gathering of the thirteen is a quiet journey, where we meet each character we know will be fighting for their lives by the end of the film. When the samurai crew finally arrive to their destination, they find that instead of the few dozen soldiers they were planning on fighting, they instead have to contend with 200 soldiers. What makes 13 Assassins truly a sight to behold is that final act, the battle between the samurai and the soldiers is brutal and amazingly paced. For a director who has dipped his toes in so many genres, it’s incredible to see Miike master the samurai genre so effectively.
- Marcelo Pico
Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 is a technical marvel. Creating a set, inside an airplane, solely for an authentic look to the weightless experience? That’s nuts, man! The sound editing and mixing that would be needed to remove the ambient noise of a plane in flight? That’s commitment! The rocket launch, space craft in space shots and the authentic to period production design? These are astonishing visuals with the current abilities of production design, let alone with the mid 90’s. But I think that Apollo 13 should be your Friday the 13th movie this year because it’s a great love letter to the abilities of the American psyche. At the start of the expedition, we treat spaceflight as a laissez fare luxury that doesn’t require any media coverage; that I Dream Of Jeannie is more important than manned space flight to The Moon. By the end, we are a united nation doing all that we can, from the prayers and huddled gatherings of citizens to the scientists and technicians who make the flight home possible. It's not just about individual survival, but the spirit of unity in the face of adversity, something useful in these times of political strife.
- Nick Isaac
13 Going on 30 (2004)
Jennifer Garner should be a top-tier movie star at this point. Unfortunately, so far, she’s been given very few opportunities to showcase her full potential. Her breakthrough role in the television show Alias is still the best thing she has even been involved with. Of course, she’s been in high profile projects, but a lot of them have provided pretty thankless roles for her; Daredevil, Juno, and Dallas Buyers Club, just to name a few. Her leading role in 2004’s 13 Going on 30 highlights her comedic talents perfectly, though. This take on the tried-and-true body switching formula is pleasantly quirky. The story centers around 13-year-old girl makes a wish and wakes up as a 30-year old, played by Garner. Much like Tom Hanks in Big, Garner has the charisma to capture the sweet-natured naivety of a child trapped in an adult’s body. On top of Garner’s performance, the film also features a hell of a supporting cast including Judy Greer, Mark Ruffalo and an in-real-life Andy Serkis. There have been plenty of body switching films in the vein of Big, but if you’d like to see one that’s a tad more refreshing than the rest, with a bonafide performance from an underrated actress, you can’t go wrong with 13 Going on 30.
- Marcelo Pico
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Assault on Precinct 13 is everything you want in a movie. Trust me on this. Action? C’mon, now. Fuck, yeah. Full of it. Tension? Check. Good 70’s exploitation dialogue? “Now, you didn’t tell me about the cholo.” Banal, yet oddly intriguing, score? Duh duh dununnuh. Sex scene? Don’t need it cos the tension between smarmy, charismatic, death row con and hot, capable, lady police assistant is more than enough to satiate that need. Good direction? Yep. Although only Carpenter’s second film, he clearly already knows what he is doing here. Undeservedly found deep within the shadow of Carpenter’s movie about one Michael Myers, Assault on Precinct 13 is every bit as good as Halloween. Carpenter manages to take an oft-told siege storyline and turn it into a taught little action picture. There isn’t any fat on this thing. It’s lean, it’s mean, and it’s just waiting for you to watch it. It’s available on Shudder right this very minute, so what the fuck are you waiting for? Get it stuck on already. You won’t regret it.
- Sarah Jane
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
A pre-millennium science fiction story about simulated realities, computer programmers, and deep philosophical underpinnings? Sounds like The Matrix, but actually this is another film which ended up being ridiculed as a mere footnote when it opened two months after the Wachowski's blockbuster hit in 1999. Despite this, The Thirteenth Floor is a fairly well-made crime-thriller with neo-noir elements, boasting an intriguing concept and some surprising twists along the way. Set mainly in a computer generated world modeled after the 1930s where several living ‘program’ people exist, it manages to take the backdrop of a film like TRON or Westworld, and fuse it with the mind-bending notions that have become more commonplace in mainstream sci-fi, thanks to films like Inception. It also happens to have been adapted from Sumulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye, the same novel that inspired Rainier Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire - not that you should attempt to double feature the two, but it makes for an interesting contrast in differing takes on source material. The Thirteenth Floor came too early conceptually and suffered the fate of arriving at a bad time, but it remains a fascinating, if a little passé, depiction of virtual reality in the 1990s.
- Rob Trench
Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
The Ocean's films have always held a special place in my heart and are excellently modernized heist films. Ocean's Thirteen is the tightest of the three films, cutting out a lot of the exposition both Ocean's Eleven and Twelve had in their first acts, and assumes the viewer has seen at least one of the previous films. Ocean's Thirteen launches straight into the heist, which benefits the film greatly, as it allows more time for twists and tricks, which are some of the best parts of the genre. Ocean's Thirteen also captures the neon soaked style of Vegas like no other, dripping with style and flair. The ensemble cast of the Ocean's films is one of the strongest and most important parts of the whole series, and every actor is on their game. Clooney and Pitt are suave, cool, and collected, Damon is firing on all cylinders, and the rest of the cast is immensely entertaining. Al Pacino provides a great foil for the cast, and is just as campily entertaining as Andy Garcia, taking bites out of any scenery he can find. Above all else, Ocean's Thirteen is a romp of a film, reveling in pseudo-technobabble and plot trickery to pull the viewer along through this light-hearted, Las Vegas adventure. True, there's not much below the surface, but Ocean's Thirteen never pretends to be anything more than what it is on the surface, which is fitting, as Las Vegas is about as shallow an entertainment experience as one can get.
- Harrison Brockwell
Thirteen Days (2000)
Released in 2000 and unfortunately forgotten shortly after, Roger Donaldson’s Thirteen Days tells the gripping story of the Cuban Missile Crisis with an almost suffocating realism. Starring Kevin Costner as Kenny O’Donnell (Special Assistant to the President) and Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy, this is an actor’s film just as much as it is a thriller. Easily replicating the fear at the height of the Cold War, Thirteen Days keeps the stakes high throughout thanks to smart choices on Donaldson’s part and and ace cast. The story proceeds with documentary-like precision, showing all sides of the conflict, although mostly focused on the American side of things. The ending may be known to anyone who’s read a history book but the tension succeeds thanks to the screenplay and the actor’s commitment. Special credit should go to Greenwood who gives the absolute best on-screen portrayal of JFK. Much like Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Greenwood doesn’t so much impersonate the man, but gives his own take on the individual. It’s his strongest performance in a career filled with high points. His Kennedy is one for ages.
- Matt Curione
Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977)
The globe-hopping super assassin Duke Togo (aka Golgo 13) has taken many forms and shapes over the years, like many famous creations from Japan Golgo 13 was serialized in one of the longest running manga series that’s been the subject of countless shows, movies, and games. The second live-action film version of the monotone hitman, Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon casts the always enigmatic Sonny Chiba, the Street Fighter himself, in place of Ken Takakura and takes the reigns as one of the best Golgo 13 adaptations. Sure, it’s a bit hammy (which can’t be much of surprise) but Sonny Chiba is always a delight to watch, as he’s a near perfect physical embodiment of the character. He can shoot, punch, kick, and stab anyone who gets in his way, assemble a high-powered sniper rifle while hanging off a cliff, bed women, scale walls, evade police and manages to do it all in style. It might sound silly, and at times it is, but this stylish iteration of the famous manga character never runs out of steam. Toei Studios were at the top of their game with their slew of Yakuza/action movies, and so was their star Sonny Chiba coming off of the Street Fighter movies. The first anime feature Golgo 13: The Professional is a classic, but Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon is a great deal of fun.
- Alex Miller
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
Michael Bay’s latest isn’t the severe indictment of Benghazi situation that right-wingers might’ve hoped for, instead it’s a personal look at the soldiers who gave their lives and their stories. Bay, with the help of cinematographer Dion Beebe, craft a gripping film that’s not only detail oriented, but devastatingly brutal as well. The Office’s John Krasinski proves he has the dramatic chops to hang with the big leagues, even though it’s a tad startling to see Jim Halpert with an assault rifle, avoiding mortar fire. 13 Hours does a great job of getting the viewer invested in these soldiers’ lives. At one point, before the siege on the U.S. compound, Krasinski receives a call from his wife back home that was absolutely devastating, eliciting an emotional response I’ve rarely had with a Bay picture. Once the attack begins, that emotion is replaced with an entirely different kind, one of pure dread. Claustrophobic firefights and gruesome bodily harm actually made me ill. I’m a huge fan of gore in horror films so it took me by surprise that the action in 13 Hours actually made my stomach turn. An underrated entry in Michael Bay’s theatrical output, 13 Hours should be sought out
- Matt Curione
13 Ghosts (1960)
William Castle gets a bad rap as being just a gimmick king when, really, his directing skills are quite fine. Is his material hokey and silly? Yes, of course. If you’re unfamiliar with Castle’s movies, they usually all have a gimmick (unless we’re talking about Rosemary’s Baby, which he produced). When watching 13 Ghosts at the theatre, everyone was given a ghost viewer. Castle, who never met a camera he didn’t like, introduces the movie and tells you how to use the ghost shaped viewer. You look through the red lens if you believe in ghosts and looked through the blue one if you don’t. If you don’t have the lens, well, you’re just left with seeing the USE VIEWER/REMOVE VIEWER tags at the beginning and ends of the ghost scenes. The movie itself is about a family of four who inherits an old, haunted mansion from an uncle they thought long dead. Yes, the house is filled with ghosts (13, natch) the uncle had caught over the years in his quest to, well, catch ghosts. Martin Milner plays the scheming lawyer who worked for the dead uncle who wanted to get his freckled mitts on the old goat’s cash. It’s a fun movie, certainly something different to watch on a Friday the 13th than a slasher film. Give it a spin this weekend. It’s good, clean fun.
- Sarah Jane
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
BUT WAIT, YOU SAID—yeah, we did. This one doesn’t have a Voorhees. Except for a couple of dream sequences, and as we all know, 'Dream Sequences Don’t Count™'. So we are counting this one. While it’s one of the less-beloved in the series, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning has its defenders for having some of the more gruesome kills in the series. It also gets good marks for committing to its switcheroo with Roy the ambulance driver in place of everyone’s favorite, worst hockey goalie, Jason Voorhees. And it does deliver in the kill department: road flare to the throat, a torsion kill with a leather strap (following the most gratuitous sex scene in the series until probably Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, well, “final”). Part V also has some interesting thematic questions working behind it (that it doesn’t really carry, sadly) about how trauma (much like superstition around Friday the 13th as a day) will follow you in your life, even after you’re personally sure it’s dead and buried. It’s one of the rare movies where knowing the twist actually makes it work a little better, and for that and the above reasons, I argue it belongs on this list.
- Sean Beattie