Review by Gordon Justesen
Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, F.
Director: Steve Beck
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: April 2, 2002
are ghosts around us all the time. Most of them canít hurt us, most donít
even want to hurt us. A little ghosts here, a little ghosts there, no one
caresÖbut there are exceptionsÖĒ
can very much be called the Armageddon
of horror movies. The movie is consistently alive with a roaring sound and a
furious pace of quick-cut editing. Itís a popcorn thrill ride Iím sure the
likes of Michael Bay would be proud of. Many critics panned the movie for that
alone, but for me, it enhanced the scares of an already scary and visually
terrifying movie. This is the latest offering from the same production team
called Dark Castle, whose first feature was the much underrated, glorious
looking House on Haunted Hill. Both
that and Thirteen Ghosts are remakes
of the films directed by 60s horror maestro William Castle, who was a pure
genius in enhancing the scares of horror movies, as well as marketing. Thirteen
Ghosts is not for thought provoking value, but it is certainly one of the
more decent and inventive films of the genre in recent memory.
This movie isnít concerned about its story, but more
about itís production design and effects, which are both very astonishing. The
movieís opening sequence is an absolute knockout, and does a perfect job of
setting up the frenetic tone that will accompany the duration of the movie. The
movie opens in an abandoned junkyard, where a group of paranormal exterminators
are hunting another spirit for the wealthy and mysterious Cyrus Kriticos (F.
Murray Abraham). The spirit, we learn, is the twelfth one Cyrus and his team
have hunted down and captured. The experiment goes slightly awry, and Cyrus is
suddenly killed in the aftermath of the capture. Why was he hunting spirits, you
ask? Thatís what the rest of the movie will somehow answer for us.
We then cut to Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shaloub), a widower
who lives with his two children and a housekeeper in a low rent apartment.
Arthur is nearly bankrupt, that is, until a lawyer informs him that Cyrus,
Arthurís Uncle, has left him and his family a luxurious house, along with
finances that would secure him and his family for good. This is some sight of a
house, as it is mostly made up of glass walls that slide open at any given
moment. Upon arriving at the house, they encounter a freaked-out psychic named
Dennis (Matthew Lillard), who turns out to be one of Cyrusí former employees.
He is there to mostly retrieve money that was promised to him by the deceased
man, but he also warns the family not to consider residing at the house, for it
is littered with some deadly spirits living in the basement. Before long, the
glass doors are sealed, and Arthur and his family, along with Dennis, are
While the original 1960 release used a neat gimmick, in which audiences were given 3D glasses for a scarier effect, this version does a unique twist on that same gimmick, this time allowing it as a plot device in the movie. The characters wear the glasses in order to see the ghosts, and they cannot be seen without them. While Iím discussing the ghosts, I will waste no time in saying that I truly find them to be some of the most horrifying looking figures Iíve ever seen, even if some of them are the case of effects artists. The quick flashes of the appearances of these spirits are likely to have you jump a time or two.
I have never seen the original version, but I am very
familiar with the legacy of director William Castle, and I strongly feel that if
he were alive today, he would be very happy with the turnout of the remakes of
his films. Thirteen Ghosts is a pure triumph of style over substance. The
movie isnít concerned with its story, and it doesnít have time to be with
its quick pace. It is only concerned with scaring the audience, which I can say
it does a supremely good job of.
Another superb showing from WB! This film is in love with its style, and this DVD transfer keeps the look of the movie alive and looking darn good for the entire presentation. All kind of lighting, from light to dark, fare extremely well, and the scenes in the upper area of the house, with the sliding glass doors in the background, look absolutely extravagant. Warner has had a truly wonderful year thus far with their transfers, and Thirteen Ghosts is another top-notch entry.
When seeing this movie in
the theater, and immensely impressed with the sound of the movie, I knew this
would rank as one of the best sounding discs of all time, and was I ever so
right. This 5.1 audio mix provided by Warner is truly one of the studiosí best
audio tracks in their long DVD history. The furious sound quality accompanies
the quick flashy effects and individual moments of terror wonderfully. This
movie is all about sound, and this DVD presentation has enhanced that notion
A nicely packaged
assembly from Warner. Included is a full-length commentary with director Steve
Beck and a few of the effects artists, a nicely done documentary titled ď13
Ghosts RevealedĒ, and an bonus featurette on the history behind each ghost in
the movie. Also included is a music video by Tricky and a trailer.