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13 Ghosts Review
Directed By: Steve Beck
Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tony Shalhoub and Shannon Elizabeth, Matthew Lillard.
Brief history lesson before the true review...so if you must, skip on down about three paragraphs. Now for those of you staying...a) Thank you and B) Thirteen Ghosts is a remake of a 1960 horror film by William Castle. William Castle is the kind of guy I like hearing about in a business that often takes itself so seriously.
William Castle was a hype master who pioneered the concept of outrageous gimmickry to sell tickets (John Goodman's character Lawrence Woolsey was based on Castle).
Some quick examples: In 1958 for his film Macabre he took out insurance policies for audience members who might die of fright during the film.
For House on Haunted Hill a 1958 cult favorite and remade again in 1999, Castle rigged plastic skeletons in the theaters that flew over the audience at a certain moment in the film. The movie posters called this 'Emergo' and people returned several times for the effect, to begin pelting the skeleton with popcorn and drinks. My favourite one has to belong to his film, The Tingler (1959) where he had wired selected seats with electronic buzzers to actually send shocks into the crowd.
Now the reason for that long winded lead in was to let you in on what he used for 13 Ghosts of 1960. Upon entering people were issued a pair of glasses not unlike 3-D glasses. One lens was red and the other blue...the blue lens showed the movie as it was while watching through the red allowed the audience to see the ghosts on screen.
In the re-make this device is actually a part of the plot. The characters within the film can not see the evil spectres without aid of specially designed glasses which may come off as gimmicky but does a lot towards adding suspense when a character can not see what is threatening them.
The story works fast enough to allow audiences to jump possible plot holes or inconsistencies. A family inherits a spectacular old house from an eccentric uncle. The problem is the house seems to be a machine, built on folklore and powered by the dead. Before they know it they are trapped in their new home by strangely shifting walls with only a bizarre ghost hunter (Matthew Lillard) to guide them.
The movie is a lot of special effects, running, violence and great make up on the evil spectres but the family is (despite some of the back story presented) rather annoying. Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth), Maggie (Rah Diga) are boring, self-indulgent and very unfunny characters. The humour, for the most part rarely fits into play or is just so unfunny as to draw attention to itself.
The father Arthur (played by Tony Shalhoub) seems to be the only logical character, trying to save his family from a house...bringing a parallel to his wife's death who died in a house fire he was not allowed to go enter. As for Matthew Lillard...this guy kills me. Despite his regular recurring role in Freddie Prinze movies he has done some stellar work elsewhere. If you doubt me just check out SLC Punk for a great performance and unique little movie.
Unfortunately there isn't enough of either Lillard or Shalhoub to support the movie and after about forty minutes the film treks downhill. It becomes the same scenario over and over...after all how much can you do with a family trapped in a house with ghosts other than run through the hall, have a ghostly violent encounter and repeat?
A fun little movie for awhile that plods to a rather boring ending sadly. Still great camera work, solid looking evil creatures and a really nasty death sequence for a slimy character make this, at the least, memorable.
Oh, and in case you write William Castle off as a one time shlock meister who tried to bilk little kids out of their nickel's with cheap thrills, throw this into your cranium. He also produced Orson Welle's Lady From Shanghai in 1948 and rounded his career out with Rosemary's Baby. Not bad for a man who just loved to thrill his audiences.
Copyright© Written by Staffwriter: Rob Paul
Commentary with Director, Cast and Crew
HBO First Look
Deleted Scenes with Commentary
Spook House Game
Regional Code: Region Code.1
Audio Tracks: English 5.1, French 5.1
Subtitles: Spanish, French
Ratios: Widescreen No A/R, Anamorphic,
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