Site 13 movie poster

Site 13

In theaters July 28, 2023


86 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , ,

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, films like Site 13 being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Site 13 (2021) is billed as a movie 17 years in the making. Dr. Nathan Marsh (Nathan Faudree) wakes from a 10-year coma. Dr. Marsh is tracking the existence of 26 circles that lead to other dimensions. Another colleague has developed a drug that, when injected, protects the user when traveling between worlds. Tampering with symbols, chants, and this drug leads to the deaths of all his research students and his subsequent coma. Former nun-turned-psychologist, Catherine (Katie Gibson) is keen to uncover both her patient’s history and unexpected revival and watches the videotapes that were recorded as documentation. Tape after tape reveals the failures and horrifying successes of Dr Marsh’s experiments, unleashing a cosmic horror upon the world.

Site 13 began as a found footage project in 2003, but was ultimately shelved by the original director, Tony Urban when he went into retirement. Writer-director Nathan Faudree decided to reuse the footage as flashback sequences to an updated tale of ambition and misdirected worship.

Where Site 13 works is in the original “found footage”. The grainy tracking and authentic sound infuse the material with nostalgic dread. This is a crew of enthusiastic students and researchers and for footage that was shot in 2003, it’s well-shot, coherent, and genuinely terrifying in places. It’s sad there isn’t more footage, or more couldn’t be incorporated into the modern story.

Where Site 13 falters is the modern-day story of a man playing catch up with his memories at an institution that would gleefully be shut down by any department of Health and Human Services. Seemingly understaffed with multiple patients wandering under-supervised to either stare at the sky or attack staff, my underlying thought was “where is everyone?” Too many patients and too few staff, even as background, and it was more distracting than it needed to be.

While it would be easy to write of Marsh’s integration into full consciousness as an aspect of his interdimensional travel, the back and forth slide from catatonia to complete sentences was uneven. The last seven minutes of Site 13 felt compressed and rushed and leaves you unsure if you’re relieved that it’s over or mad that it’s over. For such a massive buildup, the payoff lacked any emotional punch.

Imagine a roller coaster with a climb that promises a stomach-clenching drop and several looks, but when it reaches the apex, there’s a 20-foot coasting drop and an elevator to take you back down.

I will give points for the cosmic terror. It managed to be very unsettling without being cheesy, but there’s a lot of film before you get there, and everything after isn’t enough to be completely satisfying.

Site 13 is worth a watch for its integration of footage and its valiant attempt to craft a new story. Despite its flaws, it will hold its place quite handily among other Lovecraftian films, and I believe it was done better than a few direct adaptations.

Site 13 (2021) is unrated, but call it an R for swears, pet death, self-harm, lots of blood, violent depictions of mental illness, and an eldritch horror worthy of screentime.

Site 13 is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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