You may want to start carrying a back pack.
Skip (Jason Spisak) is a parolee working the night shift as a janitor at an old west theme park. Archie (Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite) is charged with showing Skip the ropes. During the walk-through, Archie tells interesting tales about items found in the park, stories meant to teach the ex-con the importance of making wise decisions. Through the use of five vignettes, all revolving around the locker number 13, Archie tries to prevent Skip from making a choice that he could live — or not live — to regret.
It was hard to imagine what kind of thrills could come from a movie about a locker cursed with the number 13, but I was curious so I rolled the dice and chose Locker 13 as my movie du jour. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by this little film made way back in 2009.
The five semi-chilling tales offered on this DVD include…
* “Down and Out”
* “The Byzantine Order”
* “Suicide Club”
* “The Author”
* “The Other Side”
While all of the vignettes have aspects that are appealing, I have two definite favorites from the bunch. The first is ‘Down and Out,’ starring Ricky Schroder (NYPD Blue) as Tommy “The Trigger” Novak, a down and out boxer hired as a sparring partner to the ‘real’ fighters at the gym. When Tommy is given a pair of old gloves by a sinister janitor, he finally begins winning his bouts. Unfortunately for his opponents, Tommy’s newfound pugilistic talents leaves his challengers dead in the ring. Schroder is also one of the producers of Locker 13, and does a great job as the not too bright and lowly boxer. He shed his handsome hunk persona in favor of a disheveled loser; a nice transition from most of the roles he stars in. But for a girl who had a little crush on the Silver Spoons star, it was a rude awakening. Out of all the shorts, this one is by far the best of the bunch.
‘The Other Side’ is the anchor story of Locker 13, the short that all the others spring from. Here we meet Archie and Skip, co-workers at a Wild West theme park. Archie uses the other stories to help the recently freed Skip with some life lessons. None of it sticks of course, because Skip is bitter about a life he hoped would be far different than it is. But what Skip fails to see, and what Archie tries to show him, is that the bad decisions are why his life is in the crapper. When Skip meets someone just like himself — only successful — all bets are off and he makes a pack with this mysterious man, hoping to cheat his way to that life he believes he deserves. Jon Gries is a character actor who always gives a solid performance, and he does a good job of portraying Archie as a kindly and eccentric uncle-type with a few secrets of his own. Jason Spisak does a fine in the loser jail bird role, he’s understated and quiet but you can see that there’s anger welling up inside.
I had fun with Locker 13. It isn’t ground breaking, but it does the anthology thing fairly well. The performances are respectable, especially those of Schroder, Gries, and Spisak. There is also a good performance from Jason Marsden, who plays a strange kind of motivator in ‘Suicide Club.’ Rick Hoffman has the lead role in ‘The Author.’ He’s one of my favorite bad guys and always does a splendid job of making you hate him — and here he does not disappoint. ‘The Byzantine Order’ is by far the weak link of Locker 13. Starring High School Musical’s Bart Johnson, it is a meandering tale about a bizarre initiation into a Mason’s type group. Johnson is fine, but I think his talents and those of Curtis Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds) are wasted in a story that tries to be both campy and suspenseful, but does neither very well.
Locker 13 is a nice standard def 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, with clear images and sharp colors. The 5.1 Dolby audio has nice sound quality with easy to decipher dialogue and an unassuming soundtrack. This anthology series will go great with a group of good friends, some burgers, and a few brews (or Pepsi for those of us who think beer tastes like swamp water). Believe me, a good time will be had by all. There are no extras to be found on this minimalist DVD release.
Anthology films are like campfire stories: they’re never really scary, but when told well they can be a whole helluva lot of fun. Even though Locker 13 isn’t a grand slam, it is a valiant effort worthy of your time.
3 out of 5 gym socks. Not Guilty.
Locker 13 (DVD)
2014, Arc Entertainment, 103 minutes, R (2013)
VIDEO: 1.78:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH)
EXTRAS: None ACCOMPLICES: IMDB