It doesn’t take much to figure out what’s this movie like. I mean, it’s right there, in the title. Thir13en Ghost is a sleek and entertaining ghost movie that’s not scary. How can a movie about ghosts not be scary, you might be wondering. Well, the answer lies in the atmosphere and the desire of the filmmakers to make a commercial horror that just looks cool. I remember watching it for the first time and being blown away by the quality of the special effects. They successfully demonstrated that CGI is the way of the future. Something that became apparent in the new millennia with the release of such movies as Resident Evil, Eight Legged Freaks, and Ghost Ship.
That last one is also directed by Steve Back, the guy behind the movie we’ll be talking about today. Thirteen Ghosts is a remake of the 1960 film 13 Ghosts, directed and produced by William Castle. Both movies rely heavily on visual effects, using them as a lure to trap potential viewers. For example, Castle handed out special glasses before each projection, to make the ghosts really pop out. I guess, the equivalent today would be 3D movies but this one was a bit early to the party. I wonder if in forty years’ time we will see another remake using some kind of novel technology.
Right away I have to tell you that you shouldn’t take this movie too seriously. The story, characters, and pretty much everything else are secondary to the, how should I put this, guilty pleasure vibe. So, if you’re looking for a horror movie that won’t scare the shit out of you but will be fun to watch, you’ve just found it. The pacing is rather fast and with a running time of just over ninety minutes, Thirteen Ghosts, an undoubtedly stylish haunted house movie, will be over before you know it. You can follow it up with another stylish and visually alluring horror, Queen of the Damned or The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez.
Cyrus Kriticos is an interesting man. Not only he lives in an extravagant mansion but his occupation is also exciting. He’s a ghost hunter. While trying to catch a particularly dangerous ghost, Cyrus, unfortunately, dies, leaving his huge mansion to his nephew Arthur, who doesn’t know that it holds many secrets. Arthur decides to move in with his two children and this is where the trouble starts…
Oh man, oh man, as soon as I saw that Dark Castle Entertainment logo, I knew that the movie is going to be great. And then a giant truck comes into the frame spraying blood all over a car junkyard. And you slowly start to realize just how unhinged and weirdly creative this movie is. This brings us to the main reason why you should watch Thirteen Ghosts, to witness some truly terrifying ghosts. They look realistic, awesome, and fucking scary! With a budget of a whopping $42 million, they could go all-in when it comes to the CGI and production values.
Granted some of them are rather simplistic, like a bloody lady with a huge knife and big boobs but at least they’re effective. If you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray edition, you can watch the Ghost Files feature and learn their backstories. And the house looks also cool with all these cryptic writings on the transparent walls to keep the ghosts in. It’s full of ancient artifacts, swords, armor, and other cool shit. Just imagine being this “lucky” and getting this house as your inheritance. Matthew Lillard was a bit over the top with his role but we luckily have Tony Shalhoub to balance things out.
On a personal note, Shannon Elizabeth was beautiful as always here. She established herself as the crush of the entire generation with her appearance in American Pie. Thirteen Ghosts is definitely not a masterpiece. But it could serve as a nice intro to a long night of ghost or haunted house movies from the same period: The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, The Others, and Stir of Echoes…
Director: Steve Beck
Writers: Robb White, Neal Marshall Stevens, Richard D’Ovidio
Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, JR Bourne
Fun Facts: The sword Duncan MacLeod wields in Highlander, a dragon katana is part of the collection of swords.