TV Series: 13 – Fear is Real
Here is a reality TV where the last remaining “guest” (that’s what they call the contestants) goes home with $66,666. That’s no paltry sum, considering everything else is a derivative mishmash of other reality television. Thirteen contestants are invited to spend a few days (and nights) at the Louisiana Bayou where “guests” are gradually subjected to different challenges: at the jungles, bayou, a secluded fortress (where trapped soldiers used to eat their dead to survive).
The first challenge occurs in the evening where pairs are tasked to “rescue” their partner. Whoever comes last loses. This entails the 2 losers to undergo “Execution” – a final elimination challenge where whoever loses supposedly dies: fed to the rats, buried alive, burned at the stakes, killed by falling lumber, sliced in half by a pendulum, drowned and attacked by snake in a bathroom filled with rising water, crushed to death in the trunk of a car, etc. Sam Raimi (“Spider-man”) sits as executive producer so I was looking forward to this.
During these challenges (which mostly occur in the dark), not only are there cameras surrounding every one, but when they are mobile, they have to carry hand-held cameras with them, beamed straight on their faces. It is perfect for the resident narcissist, right? It’s supposed to mimic the effect that made the “Blair Witch Project” work, but there’s almost none of that here.
The challenges are annotated by a voice from a cell phone. The "guests"would get a call from someone they call the “Mastermind” – and if you’ve seen one “Saw” movie, you would know where they culled their inspiration from.
Then the show had to lay on the horror ante by writing “vandals” all around fortress walls – “Death”, “Fear”, “Blood”, etc. Like a tweaked version of “Fear Factor” and "Survivor", guests are then subjected to a sinking canoe on a lake “filled with leaches, snakes and alligators”. Furthermore, some pit stops are peppered with bowls of cut-up lungs, snakes (again), worms, rats, etc. Some “Execution” challenges are as simple as whoever gets to unlock the chains around him, or whoever unties himself to escape the fire shall emerge the winner.
Most reality TV rely on the varying characters that populate a contest. Once the viewers have invested enough time familiarizing with the different participants, the show could rely on their interest to see through the show's conclusion.
In the series, a stack of cards called “Death Box” appears sometime during the contest. The first guest to secure it shall be labelled the “killer” because he/she is given the power to kill off 3 participants, as long as he does so without others noticing. The killing is really a form of “tag, you’re it” but a bloody glove is left as evidence of the ghastly deed.
Spoilers here: The contestants include a lady bartender, a Laos-American girl named Steffenie Phrommany (the first one to get “killed”), a Sports Exec named Ryan, a PR consultant named Ericka, a scary alpha-male carpenter, a “cute and innocent” blond girl (their words) who frequently prays; a cute construction worker named Rodney Craft suspected of being "the killer" and a fat guy with a Mohawk hair and nose piercing who works as a “ghost hunter” (get outta here)!
It would be true when they say “Fear is Real”, but this is strictly fear of getting eliminated and doing away with $66,666. You wouldn’t be too gullible to actually believe that the contestants are actually murdered, would you? We all know that at the end of the shoot, everyone shall come out alive and kicking. Bummer!
Spoilers: Sports exec Ryan Norys who, during his execution, was busy looking around instead of untying himself!
Spoilers: Steffinie Phrommany was born in Laos, but grew up in the US. Though she looked younger than the others, she was actually the oldest at 29, the youngest is the early whiner Leah Lucas at 21. Steffinie had the balls to actually steal the "Death Box" but, like the chicken who lost her head, "returned" it as she couldn't deal with the pressure of her guilt. Wasn't she aware that this was a game?