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Site 13 (2021) Review

The story of Site 13 starts back in 2003 when writer/director Tony Urban (Hunting Season, Kottentail) set out to make a mostly improvised found footage film. For whatever reason, Urban never finished the film, and it sat on a shelf until 2016 when its star Nathan Faudree (Necropath, Ghost Source Zero) decided to resurrect the project. With Urban’s blessing, he wrote and shot present-day footage in which his character, Dr. Nathan Marsh, awakens from a ten-year coma. The original footage serves as a record of the events leading to him ending up in said coma. A record that needs to be studied to find out just what his research unleashed.

Marsh, along with his students Kelly (Kelly Ray, Blood Relic, The Shrieking), Nicki (Nicki McFarlane, Klownz, A Pound of Flesh), Tony (Tony Urban) and John (John Wisniewski, Max Reload and the Nether Blasters) made a trip to Site 13, the most powerful of twenty-six circles that reputedly led to another reality. By reversing, the polarity of his body’s electrical system reversed to allow him to enter that reality, and return when the effect wears off. Unbelievably, it works, but he comes back very different from when he left.

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Ten years later a nun walks into a bar. She’s Sister Margaret (Leila Dean, Transformation, Concrete Skies) and she’s come looking for Dr. Charter (Katie Gibson), Marsh’s former doctor, and former member of her order, to tell her that not only has Dr. Marsh emerged from his coma but is alert and talking.

For its first ten or so minutes, Site 13 mixes old footage, snippets from the present day and the opening credits. The resulting collage can be a bit hard on the eyes but it does make sure that by the time something resembling one of Lovecraft’s eldritch horrors manifests in a suburban home the viewer has an idea of what’s going on.

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Thankfully there isn’t a lot of the original footage used in Site 13, because to put it mildly, it’s pretty weak. It’s not as mind-numbingly awful as many early found footage films but much of it is exceedingly bland. Even after Dr. Marsh comes back from the other side, there’s no real bite to what happens. Marsh’s explanation of the “Devil’s Circles” is intriguingly laid out, but that’s about it. It doesn’t take a genius to see why this was shelved.

The present-day footage on the other hand feels like a no-budget mashup of Event Horizon and Prince of Darkness, with a few other stray bits and pieces mixed in for good measure. It actually works a lot better than it should and kept my interest despite a few script issues such as the rather predictable reason for Dr. Charter’s loss of faith and the constant repetition of the phrase “He is in the world”.

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The two sets of footage were edited together by Alan Rowe Kelly (Devil’s Path, I’ll Bury You Tomorrow) who also plays one of the mental patients that fill in for Prince of Darkness’ street people. The result has a creepy edge to it and may actually benefit slightly from the original footage’s shortcomings. The lame jokes and drunken bickering make it a bit more believable as found footage than Hollywood perfect jokes and dialogue would. That doesn’t mean I’d want to sit through ninety minutes of it, but the excerpts give the impression of realism that they need to.

The final result is a film that delivered more than I expected, with some unnerving scenes and some interesting interplay between the three leads. Terror Films will release Site 13 to Digital Platforms on July 28th. You can visit the film’s Facebook page for more details.

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