MRR Review: "36 Saints"

Photo Credit: Active Fox Productions

MRR Review: "36 Saints"

Rating: R (violence)
Length: 83 minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2013
Directed by:Eddy Duran
Genre: Thriller

The end of the summer often winds down to the chills and thrills of big-screen screamers. Kicking off 2013's fall line-up is Eddy Duran's "36 Saints." The story goes big on religious imagery and delves into one of the most curious facets of Catholic dogma, the Saints. Whether it does so accurately or not doesn't seem to affect the script, which is full of mayhem, murder, and Manhattan. The city is an outstanding piece of the puzzle in this curious story featuring a largely unknown cast, and select visuals that will be hard to forget.

Detectives Joseph (Franky G, "The Italian Job") and Michael (Jeffrey De Serrano, "Longmire") comb Manhattan streets, securing the safety of their citizens with almost divine-like determination. They're more than good at their jobs. They were destined for their current jobs long before either was born. As with many things supernatural, there are good and evil forces at play, and the lawmen are definitely on the side of the good guys.

That's good for one group of kids. Though the writers, Jeffrey De Serrano and Joey Dedio, took major liberties with Catholic doctrine, they weave an intriguing and chillingly delightful tale of good versus evil. The plot involves a group of teens who hold the fate of humankind in their hands. The kids—all named after saints—are the victims of a plane crash and of a violent maniac who believes killing the nine survivors will bring about the end of the world.

This premise immediately gives some critics problems. Instead of just relaxing and having fun with a unique idea, they have to point out the obvious factual errors purported by the movie's writers. There are more than 36 saints. Being nice isn't saintly in and of itself. The Catholic Church wouldn't saint any of these kids based on their lives or deaths. Sure, if you look closely, there's plenty to complain about here, but none of it has to mar the movie. Enjoying any work of fiction means taking a break from reality.

While the movie is billing itself as a mix of "Seven" and "The Da Vinci Code," it's captured a campier feel. There's potential here for cult classic appeal, with a masked villain responsible for disposing of one holy vessel after another. The grisly episodes in which they're murdered tie directly into the lives of the saints they were named after, adding a bit of Catholic-kitsch to the film.

This film provides a nice break from formula slasher movies. Its teens aren't the type to bare it all and are not up for everything. This isn't yet another masked attempt at condemning promiscuity or showing how young women should be punished for showing some skin. This is a joyfully honest thriller that, at times, will leave audiences cheering on the main characters, even if their actions wind up being fairly predictable.

Unfortunately, the studios didn't really promote the film honestly. For instance, it's billed as a thriller when it's more in line with the horror genre. It's made to look extremely serious, but it is a lighthearted romp through murderous Manhattan. The vibe audiences get from the movie will be much different than the one proposed in trailers, but all the same, it's an enjoyable film. Tragically, it takes itself quite seriously when no one else is likely to.

It makes you feel a little sad for the writers. Both starred in "36 Saints" and not in bit parts. They've created roles for themselves that were integral to the plot. Neither have extensive writing credits, though De Serrano is recognizable from television, most notably as Hector in the cable adaption of the Craig Johnson book series, "Longmire." The director is equally as new to the big screen with just one full-length feature under his belt, the forgettable "Grand Opening."

Likewise, many of the actors are unknowns. The actress playing Eve is perhaps the most popular. As Alma Walker, the doomed young bride of the second season of "American Horror Story," she captured—and broke—viewers' hearts. She's back in a similar role that will tug at audience's heartstrings.

It's doubtful "36 Saints" will suffer the same fate. With its succession of sacrifices, a malicious masked madman, and an ensemble of ingénues, the movie will leave some viewers in stitches. Whether it was created with a campy Halloween vibe or not, it fits the feel of the season perfectly. It's a great choice for movie fanatics interested in creepy killer plots.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Tags: 36 Saints