Release Date: October 26, 2001
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz,
Matthew Lillard, Shannon
Elizabeth, Rah Digga, & F.
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Steve Beck
Executive Producer: Dan Cracchiolo & Steve
Producer: Gilbert Adler, Joel Silver &
Writer: Neal Marshall Stevens &
Address Comments To:Barry M. Meyer, Chairman/CEO
Warner Bros., Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
Most hunters usually focus their efforts on a particular type of prey and make it their business to learn all they can, even identify with it, while in its pursuit. In THIRTEEN GHOSTS, the hunter’s preference is ghosts, in this case the undead and tortured souls of a grotesque gallery of murderous characters whom he relentlessly pursues and imprisons as bizarre trophies. Once this idea is established, the action switches to the activities of a middle class family facing financial difficulties. The dad, Arthur Kriticus, played by Tony Shalhoub, has a couple of lovable children, his beautiful teenage daughter Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth), and his son Bobby (Alec Roberts), a precocious, bright fourth grader. The extended family is rounded out by Maggie (Rah Digga), the spunky nanny who looks after the children after their mother (Kathryn Anderson) was burnt to death in a suspicious fire.
Right about the time when the family’s fortunes seem to have reached their lowest point, there’s a knock at the door. It is Uncle Cyrus Kriticus’ attorney. According to the shifty looking attorney, Arthur’s eccentric uncle (played by F. Murray Abraham), and avid ghost hunter, has recently passed away. The attorney informs the hapless family that they have inherited the wealthy Uncle’s estate. The unusual looking house they have inherited has a lot more within its glass walls, strange gears, multitude of compartments, and sliding, clanking doors than they expected.
Shortly after arriving at the house, strange things begin to happen. Before the unsuspecting new guests even get a chance to start heading for the sealed exits, they find themselves fighting for their lives against a bunch of ugly ghosts bent on utterly destroying anything alive that comes within their reach. Not to leave the ghostly creatures without the visual credit they deserve, special eyeglasses making the ghosts visible to human eyes just happen to be conveniently placed all around the house. To explain the significance of the glasses, as well as the complicated plot, to the embattled dad, and the now confused audience, a couple of additional characters are added to the mix as ghost fighters. Despite their help, the situation becomes increasingly hopeless as the trapped occupants find themselves fighting for their survival in a house which has come alive driven by its gigantic gearing mechanism, fueled by satanic forces.
Based on the original 1960 production of the same title by horror film guru William Castle, THIRTEEN GHOSTS feels a need to adhere to all the modern formulaic conventions of the genre. This requires, however, the continued trend into more and more graphic gore, the obligatory depiction of nudity, even if it takes the form of a voluptuous dead woman, and attempts at humor in the form of obscene one liners. THIRTEEN GHOSTS is directed by Steve Beck and produced by Robert Zemeckis, among others. From a strictly cinematic perspective, this Dark Castle Entertainment production has its funny moments. Also, although it cheats the audience by throwing in false clues and then tries to wrap it all up quickly in the end as if it were about to run out of film stock, it still manages to hold its audience with its slick imagery, appropriate sound effects and suspenseful quick cutting.
If he were still alive, no doubt Mr. Castle, upon seeing THIRTEEN GHOSTS, would probably say to himself, “We have indeed come a long way since 1960,” but then he might also ask, “Is this the direction in which we wanted to go?”
If chills and thrills are your cup of tea, THIRTEEN GHOSTS will not disappoint. Although it cheats the audience by throwing in false clues and then tries to wrap it all up quickly in the end as if it were about to run out of film stock, it still manages to hold its audience with its slick imagery, appropriate sound effects and suspenseful fast editing. On the other hand, its thoroughly unacceptable gore, violence, nudity, satanic occultism, profanities, and obscenities are just too high a price to pay for the experience