Director: Steve Beck
Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham, Alec Roberts
MPAA Rating: (for horror violence/gore, nudity and some language)
Running Time: 1:30
Release Date: 10/26/01
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Review by Mark Dujsik
I believe that 13 Ghosts could have been made forty-some years ago by Roger Corman, with a hell of a cheaper budget, Vincent Price in the role of the power-hungry uncle, and ended up having a certain cult/camp value (much as all movies like that do). Unfortunately, it is the year 2001, horror movies have pretty much found their ultimate decline, and material like this is just laughably badónot laughably good. This is the kind of movie actors do for the paycheck, and while thatís sometimes understandable, you donít like to see someone like F. Murray Abraham awkwardly hamming his way through a role. Itís actually pretty sad. I mean, thereís hamming up a role for a laugh and then thereís hamming up a role simply so youíre working, and thatís what Abraham, along with the majority of this cast, is forced to do.
Somehow, someone involved with House on Haunted Hill (1999) is involved with 13 Ghosts, and I find that hard to believe. Not because House on Haunted Hill was any good (quite the contraryóit was horrible), but because whoever that person or those persons is or are have managed to make an even worse movie. The similarities between the two are obvious. Both are remakes of movies from around the same time period, both involve a haunted house, both have a rich, power-hungry character who brings people into the house to help them, and both are terrible. The plot involves Abraham as Cyrus Kriticos (yes, Kriticos) who, in the beginning of the movie, is hunting the twelfth and supposedly final ghost in his plan. The plan has something to do with a machine that will open the eye of hell, which gives the person who opens it knowledge of the living and dead, heaven and hell, and as a character in the movie says, "If knowledge is power..." Well, you know the rest.
So, during the hunt, Cyrus dies, and his nephew Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) inherits his uncleís elaborate house and moves in with his two children (Shannon Elizabeth and Alec Roberts) and their maid Maggie (Rah Digga). Joining them on moving day are Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), a psychic, and Kalina Retina (Embeth Davidtz), a ghost activist. It all follows through pretty predictably as revelations are made, and ghosts chase people. The ghosts wear makeup that would be acceptable in a cheap haunted house at Halloween, but that is just laughable on the big screen. Occasionally, the editor will forget that characters are being attacked by a certain ghost and ends up changing ghosts randomly. Itís not helped by the incredibly annoying music video editing, either. Enchanted walls move as ghost after ghost is released, and eventually two characters start lugging one of the walls around to protect themselves. The obvious alternative, though, is, since one character apparently knows Latin and the enchantments are written in Latin, to simply recite the spells as ghosts appear.
And that only begins the problems with 13 Ghosts. Thereís an attempt to set up a mythology with the ghosts. Ghosts apparently are people who died violent deaths, which raises the question, why does only one character who dies in the house become a ghost? What happened to these people that they appear in such "horrifying" forms as ghosts? How do you regain the brain cells killed watching this? Why bother talking any more about it?
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.