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THIRTEEN GHOSTS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham
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

ďThere 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

Film ***

Thirteen Ghosts 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 trapped inside.

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.

Video ****

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.

Audio ****

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 fully.

Features ***1/2

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.

Summary:

Thirteen Ghosts is one of the more decent horror offerings Iíve come across in the last year or so. A non-bad horror film is hard to come by these days, and this is one such rare movie that really delivers on the scare factor!