The Fear Of 13 review: This brilliant first person narrative grips from the off; a powerful piece of storytelling…
The Fear Of 13 is the latest documentary from the brilliant BBC Storyville, director David Sington and BAFTA winning producer Christopher Riley. Having received its world premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, the hard-hitting feature finally hits cinemas across the UK, rather aptly, on Friday 13th November.
The title refers to triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13, just one of the many words learned by prisoner Nick Yarris while absorbing thousands of books during his 20-year stay on Death Row in a Pennsylvania prison. Yarris is the film’s sole subject and narrates the feature to camera throughout. Clearly a very eloquent and detailed storyteller, Yarris spends the duration of the film recounting the past twenty years of his life, with it very difficult to tell whether he’s speaking to an interviewer, or directly down the lens; his eyes constantly darting and his body physically reenacting the events leading up to and since his conviction of rape, abduction and murder.
Yariss dominates this superbly constructed documentary from the get go, and his passion, emotion and constant protesting of his innocence, his maintenance of hope and then his eventual request of asking the state’s governor to have him executed immediately, commands the screen. Mixed with director Sington’s use of stunning slow-motion photography and wonderfully directed re-enactments of the events that Yarris describes, as well as well-placed sound effects, we have a gripping crime thriller that engrosses, shocks and compels in equal parts. The Fear Of 13 is a brilliant example of unique documentary filmmaking that is simple in its approach, but absolutely mind-blowing in its execution.
The Fear Of 13 is one of the most-gripping crime stories of the year, an exceptional piece of work that deserves your attention, though do go into the cinema with as little knowledge of Yarris’s case as possible, as this wonderful documentary will have you guessing to the very end.
The Fear Of 13 review, Paul Heath, November 2015.
The Fear Of 13 is released in UK cinemas on Friday 13th November, 2015.