ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 1, 2001
Several times while viewing the Vancouver-shot Thir13en Ghosts, I thought to myself: “This is a complete and utter piece of crap.” But after the movie was over, I decided that glib assessment wasn’t totally called for. The film’s set piece—a sprawling haunted house built mostly of glass and steel—was quite impressive. And the titular phantoms, rendered by Howard Berger of the renowned KNB makeup-effects company, were imaginatively gruesome.
Other than that, it was a complete and utter piece of crap.
The so-called plot of Thirteen Ghosts involves the down-on-their-luck Kriticos family (and their wisecracking nanny), who inherit a house from a mysterious uncle (the slumming F. Murray Abraham). Although the extraordinary home looks like a windfall at first—furnished as it is with valuable antiques—what the new owners don’t know is that a dozen pissed-off ghosts are confined to the basement, about to be released and bent on opening “the eye of hell”.
Worse than that, the nauseating Matthew Lillard from Scream shows up as a tortured psychic who spends most of his screen time howling and grimacing in pain while ghastly images from what looks like a Rob Zombie video flash by and the sound-effects guy specializing in high-pitched metallic squeals works overtime.
Because none of the other mortals in Thirteen Ghosts are clairvoyant, they have to wear custom-made glasses to see the ghosts, several pairs of which have conveniently been left lying around. This hokey plot device is an apparent tribute to horror impresario William Castle, who, for the 1960 release of his original Thirteen Ghosts, had the audiences wear special glasses to see on-screen spirits that weren’t visible to the naked eye.
A more fitting tribute would have been for the makers of the new Thirteen Ghosts—including first-time director Steve Beck and Academy Award–winning producer Robert Zemeckis, of Forrest Gump fame—to create a horror flick you could sit through without consistently squirming in abject loathing.
I guess they never thought of that.