Film: Thirteen Ghosts

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Film:

Thirteen Ghosts

Director: Steve Beck
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Distributor: Warner Home Video

Cool sets, gory make-up, and frantic energy are given high priority in this glossy remake of William Castle’s 1960 haunted-house chiller. The original boasted its “Illusion-O” ghost-viewing gimmick, so this remake’s producers—as they did with 1999’s The House on Haunted Hill—up the ante on Castle’s showmanship by spilling ample amounts of blood, guts, and ghoulish glory. The plot’s essentially the same: An impoverished family inherits a luxurious haunted mansion, only this time it’s an elaborate, maze-like mechanism of glass, gears, and Latin…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Cool sets, gory make-up, and frantic energy are given high priority in this glossy remake of William Castle’s 1960 haunted-house chiller. The original boasted its “Illusion-O” ghost-viewing gimmick, so this remake’s producers—as they did with 1999’s The House on Haunted Hill—up the ante on Castle’s showmanship by spilling ample amounts of blood, guts, and ghoulish glory. The plot’s essentially the same: An impoverished family inherits a luxurious haunted mansion, only this time it’s an elaborate, maze-like mechanism of glass, gears, and Latin incantations—”designed by the devil and powered by the dead”—with a cellar full of tormented, undead souls. As the family (including Tony Shalhoub and American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth) enlists the aid of a psychic (Scream alumnus Matthew Lillard) and a ghostbusting paranormal (Embeth Davidtz), this updated 13 Ghosts grows loud and ludicrous, trading shocks for yuks and nuance for nonsense. It’s fun, to a point, after which it’s just exhausting. —Jeff Shannon

A by-the-numbers haunted house movie, albeit one with some neat twists, a couple of good performances and impressive design work, Thirteen Ghosts is a remake of the 1960 original by exploitation superstar William Castle. When ghost-hunter Cyrus (F Murray Abraham) dies his quietly decent widower nephew Arthur (Tony Shaloub) inherits his house. With almost infinite predictability, he, his teenage daughter (Shannon Elizabeth) and young son, as well as a rival ghost-hunter and Cyrus’ untrustworthy tame psychic (Mathew Lillard), are trapped in the house, which is a glass labyrinth of sliding panels and shifting staircases. As the woman ghost-hunter Kalina helpfully explains, the house is “a machine designed by the devil and powered by the dead”—specifically by 12 ghosts, most of them murderously malevolent.

Shaloub and Lillard manage to make us care about this farrago and Abraham lends his few scenes his usual malignant authority, but the real star is the inventively designed house itself and the outrageous horror-comic makeup of the ghosts. This is a knowingly trashy film enjoyable on its own level. —Roz Kaveney

Barnes and Noble

Shannon Elizabeth, Matthew Lillard, and F. Murray Abraham may be in the cast, but the real star of Thirteen Ghosts is a haunted house. It’s a true spook house of the future, especially when compared to the deadly domicile in low-tech showman William Castle’s 1960 horror classic. The simple story involves a family that inherits a legitimate haunted home from an eccentric, ghost-hunting uncle. Where the original 13 Ghosts abode was a traditionally creaky edifice, this film’s ultramodern nightmare house is more like a gigantic puzzle box than a home. There are plenty of thrills to be had in this glass-walled house, and you can bet its unfortunate inheritors cast more than their share of stones. Apparitions appear early and often, running a grotesque gamut of gore as the film trades in suspense for nonstop action and top-notch special effects. The small ensemble cast—including Tony Shalhoub as the mild-mannered father, Elizabeth as his daughter, Lillard as a the token psychic, and Rah Digga as a housekeeper—spend most of the time screaming their hearts out and running for their lives. Abraham, on the other hand, plays the uncle with a kind of demonic calm. Ultimately, Thirteen Ghosts takes its unique contemporary flair from the restaging of a classic ghost chiller in a fresh setting. The DVD includes audio commentary and a making-of documentary. Gregory Baird

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