Film Review: Locker 13

An ambitious little anthology film with a moral center—in each segment the characters' fates are explicitly tied to their moral choices—but few real scares.

Ex-con Skip (Jason Spisak) needs a job, even if it's night-shift cleanup at a small-time Wild West roadside attraction, but getting through the walk-through with his loquacious boss, Archie (John Gries), proves an unexpected ordeal: every chair, lamp and knickknack has a story, and Archie knows them all.

Those boxing gloves, for example, once belonged, albeit briefly, to a washed-up fighter (’80s child-star Ricky Schroder), who “made some bad choices” when the gloves transformed him from a plugger to a killer. Or that silly fez, once worn by naïve Eugene (Bart Johnson), whose initiation into the Benevolent Byzantine Order of Nobles of the Enigmatic Oracle—a faintly comical fraternal order whose well-connected members could offer an ambitious young man a leg up in the business word—takes a turn for the ugly when the words "blood" and "sacrifice" enter the boys'–club chit chat.

Other tchotchkes trigger the story of a would-be jumper (Alexander Polinsky) interrupted by a sleek stranger (Jason Marsden, who also directed the last segment) who, rather than trying to persuade him life is worth living, calmly talks him through doing suicide right, and the tale of a paid assassin (Rick Hoffman) who kidnapped three women (Marina Benedict, Krista Allen, Carmen Perez), one of whom hired him to murder a man with whom all were intimately involved.

Despite boasting five directors, eight writers and more than a dozen producers, Locker 13—partially financed with Kickstarter campaign—hangs together better than many anthology pictures. Yes, each segment is essentially a self-contained, one-act play, but the common theme (however obvious, and it is obvious; there are only so many ways to say "know thyself") and surprising consistent style (given the multiple cinematographers) provide continuity. Its other strong suit is the quality of the performances, courtesy of a cast filled with character actors whose combined credits are enough to make your eyes water and whose faces are just familiar enough to assure viewers that they’re in good hands.

Be advised: if you go in expecting an exercise in nerve-shredding, gut-testing horror or soft-core hijinks, you’ll be disappointed; R rating notwithstanding, guts, gore and gazongas are not the main event. Locker 13 has more in common with TV's “Night Gallery” (1970-73) than the Saw franchise, and while it never achieves the genre-defining highs of Dead of Night (1945), the elegance of Black Sabbath (1963), the pulp luridness of Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror (1972 and '73) or the addictive Karen Black-ness of cult classic Trilogy of Terror (1975), it's still well above the barrel-scraping lows of 1985's Night Train to Terror and Creepshow 3 (2007).