Movie Review: The Fear of 13

Published on June 27th, 2016 in: Current Faves, Documentaries, Movie Reviews, Movies, Netflix Reviews, Reviews, True Crime |

By Tyler Hodg


Some say life is stranger than fiction; The Fear of 13, a documentary by British filmmaker David Sington, is a whirlwind collection of unbelievable anecdotes told by Death Row prisoner Nick Yarris, which seem too crazy not to be true. Now available on streaming giant Netflix, the film publicizes humane perspectives of criminals, and those often unfairly tossed aside by society.

The Fear of 13 is presented in a non-linear format, which results in both suspense for upcoming stories, and confusion because of the choice of pace. The first half of the film leads the viewer into a spiral of madness, with each tale becoming crazier and more elaborate, but eventually loses its footing and incorporates unwarranted information that only convolutes the package.

Most specifically, the reveal of a traumatic event in Yarris’s childhood comes across as insignificant due to its placement within the film. While it brings clarity to how the man went down a certain path, it seems thrown in as a last-minute shock story.

Despite its pacing downfall, each new segment is equally as polarizing as the last. Morbid curiosity leads viewers to want to listen on and live vicariously through the words of Yarris, and by the time the conclusion is reached, it feels as if there are a million equally as intriguing stories that remain untold.

The documentary features no audible voices aside from Yarris’s, yet other characters are introduced and play a major role within the vivid world that is laid out. Friends, enemies, and other members of society are described with such detail and conviction; it is effortless to imagine reality through the eyes of the narrator.

Accompanying the one-man-show style interview are various coordinating reenactments, which thankfully never cross the line into true-crime TV special quality. The scenes purposefully avoid facial features, allowing viewers to conceptualize their own idea of what people in the stories look like, and are tastefully simplistic.

The Fear of 13 is a gripping film about injustice, tribulations, and great triumph retold by many, but through the channel of one man. While there are some notable rough patches in the final product, director Sington is successful in creating a unique, compelling, and informative experience. The Fear of 13 has a lasting effect that remains long after the credits roll.

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