Here it comes: The obligatory Sundance reference. In writing about 13 Tzameti, it's pretty impossible to avoid, since the thing won 2006's Grand Jury Prize at the fest. On the other hand, it's also pretty impossible to see why, exactly, the film won that prize.
Equally impossible is finding a way to summarize the film. See, the French 13 Tzameti hinges on one plot device. Since the scene in question is enough of a doozy that I don't want to give it away, forgive the blurry vagueness: While repairing a neighbor's roof, young Sébastien (George Babluani) finds himself observing the house's residents, one of whom is drug-addled Godon (Philippe Passon). There's mysterious stuff going on in this house, and just as Sébastien begins to get intrigued, Godon dies, and Sébastien's left jobless. Or, rather, he would be—if he hadn't come into possession of some mysterious papers of Godon's. Sébastien eventually finds himself an unwilling participant in a terrifyi—
Tough shit. Oh, you'd like to know, I'm sure, but that means you'll have to see the film; the most I'll tell you is that 13 Tzameti's big reveal lands somewhere between The Most Dangerous Game and Russian roulette. What that big reveal doesn't do, however, is justify the film's molasses-paced, unfocused intro, nor does it really keep things all that interesting or original from then on out. Writer/director Géla Babluani shoots everything in a stoic black and white, and there're enough slow, noir-y moments to lend the film a bit of artiness, just as there are a few visceral flashes of blood. But basing an entire, full-length film around one scene is folly. In 13 Tzameti's case, what could've been a dark, sharp short film is dulled down into a tedious and overlong one—and one that definitely fails to justify its obligatory Sundance reference.