Dark Castle Entertainment, has been dedicated to updating older horror films for modern-day audiences for many years. Although “Thirteen Ghosts,” is wickedly gory and tautly paced, the horror and paranormal film aficionado will admit it’s totally bogus, it is totally fun to watch and has one of the most amazing production designs ever glimpsed on film. The film manages to only be marginally better than Dark Castle’s previous attempt at the remake of “The House on Haunted Hill,” and is intermittently scary and suspenseful (there were moments to be had), it is riddled with lots of eye-candy CGI, and does have an overly schmaltzy climax. The screenplay by Neal Stevens and Richard D’Ovidio, is a bit too-short to adequately tell the tale.
The Story Line
Arthur (Tony Shalhoub, better known as the popular television character ‘Monk’) and his two children, teenager Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and younger Bobby (Alec Roberts), are down on their luck. Several months ago, Arthur’s wife perished in a fire that burned their nice house down, leaving them with no money and a crummy, new abode. Their bleak fate seems to change when the family, including live-in maid Maggie (Rah Digga), are visited by a lawyer (JR Bourne) that tells them Arthur’s wealthy, distant Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) has died. If Arthur wishes to accept, Uncle Cyrus has left him a guarantee of lifelong financial security and the key to his house, an awe-inspiring masterpiece of architecture that is made completely out of unbreakable, sound proof glass, making it resemble a carnival “House of Mirrors” maze. Once inside the house, the family, along with Uncle Cyrus’ worried former partner, Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), become hopelessly trapped within its walls. It seems that Uncle Cyrus’ house isn’t really a house at all, but a meticulously constructed machine powered by the dead–namely thirteen angry ghosts that are nearer to them than they think. Each time the walls move and the machine reconstructs itself, another ghost is released from its glass-encased cage. Suffice to say, its walls are quickly growing too small to hold everyone.
“Thirteen Ghosts,” by first-time director Steve Beck, wastes little time setting things up and gently finds its groove. The middle 45 minutes are easily the picture’s best–for half the running time, “Thirteen Ghosts” is an exciting, admittedly cheesy, horror flick that most closely resembles a scary fun house attraction. The action is almost relentless in its willing delight to pump up the heart rates of the audience members, and for a cursory time period, it succeeds. Unfortunately, the closing sections are so weakly planned and unevenly carried out that they inadvertently make the successful parts seem like a fluke. The melodramatic finale is especially disappointing, and the attempted poignancy of the closing scenes fail miserably. When one goes to a horror movie around Halloween, they want to be on the edge of their seats throughout, not witness something violent and gory transform into live-action Disney movie corn. The real star of “Thirteen Ghosts,” is the glass-shrouded house/machine itself – even more so than the human actors or even the creepy-looking ghost characters. Sean Hargreaves’ mesmerizing production design is so exact and atmospherically rich in every one of its details that, should have fully deserved Academy Award consideration. Director Beck also has fun with the specially made glasses the characters wear that gives them the ability to see the ghosts; without them, they have no idea how close the ghouls are or what dire trouble they are in. MANY paranormal investigators today would ‘kill’ to get their hands on these glasses…unfortunately they have to stick with their more expensive toys. “Thirteen Ghosts” has enough solid moments to be diverting entertainment…and just good fun.
Although the reviews for Thirteen Ghostswere mostly negative, only garnering a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus however was that “The production design is first-rate, but 13 Ghosts is distinctly lacks in scare value.” Roger Ebert praised the production values saying, “The production is first-rate. The physical look of the picture is splendid.” However, he criticized the story, lack of interesting characters, loud soundtrack, and poor editing. It is currently on his list of “Most Hated” films. In the US, the film opened ranking 2nd, making $15,165,355. It spent 10 weeks in the US box office, eventually making $41,867,960 domestically, and $68,467,960 worldwide. But we liked it well enough to put into Occam’s Enigma! We think you will too…