Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
By: Craig Villinger on August 8, 2002  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Columbia Tristar (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1. English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese Subtitles. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Steve Beck
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, Embeth Davidtz, F. Murray Abraham, Alec Roberts, JR Bourne,
Screenplay: Neal Marshall Stevens, Richard D'Ovidio
Music: John Frizzell
Tagline: Terror has multiplied.
Country: USA
Arthur Kriticos has been having a hard time of late. A house fire which resulted in his wife's death now sees him stuck in a cramped apartment with his two children and a maid, with overdue bills stacking up and debt collectors circling like sharks waiting to feast on their prey, however salvation presents itself in the form of a shady lawyer who comes with the news of a long lost uncle's passing. As is always the case, this long lost uncle was exceedingly rich (the concept of the poor long lost uncle is rarely explored by Hollywood) and has left his gigantic house and all of his money to Arthur, his one and only heir. So what does a man do when given a new house as part of a last will and testament? He checks it out to see how well he has scored of course, and at first glance it does indeed appear as though Arthur has hit the jackpot, with the rather odd house, which has been constructed almost entirely from glass and steel, looking like it is worth a mint.

Moving on to the obligatory guided tour with a slightly disgruntled power guy tagging along for the ride, the group takes in the splendour that is their new home with absolutely no knowledge of what lies in waiting. Before they even have time to jump up and down on the beds however, the power guy freaks out, drools all over the glass floors and then reveals that he is in fact a psychic ghost chaser who had helped the dearly departed Cyrus capture twelve ghosts for some nefarious scheme that he was hatching (which required a thirteenth ghost to be completed, hence the title), and that all twelve ghosts are imprisoned in the basement of the very same house that they are currently gallivanting within. Spooky! Cue some shifting walls which trap the group inside the house and release said ghosts from their imprisonment, add a couple of disappearing family members who must be searched for (in pairs of course) and throw in another paranormal expert who has gained entry to the house in order to free the ghosts from their enslavement (sort of like the paranormal worlds answer to a Greenpeace member) and you have the ingredients for a suitably creepy eighty seven minutes of high gloss entertainment which sees the group endlessly pursued, tormented and physically assaulted by some seriously spooky spooks.

Thir13en Ghosts is based somewhat loosely on William Castle's 1960 fright-fest 13 Ghosts (same title, different spelling) which featured the interesting 3D gimmick "Illusion-O". For this reworking however the producers have elected to go with the standard two dimensional option, which may or may not have altered the enjoyment factor. With so many horror movies these days trying to follow in the footsteps of Scream by being more of a parody of a horror film than an actual horror film, Thir13en Ghosts is a welcome change of pace, giving us spooks and scares aplenty without a hint of self referential dialogue and only occasional attempts at comic relief. Visually, the film is amazing, with the production design Sean Hargreaves being one of its major selling points (The glass house looks extremely impressive) while Gale Tattersall's cinematography helps to create a fantastic atmosphere. The cast all do a great job (yes, even the occasionally annoying Matthew Lillard) and director Steve Beck keeps things moving along at a rapid pace, delivering numerous scares and some impressive gore sequences along the way (check out the gruesome demise of the lawyer!). The ghosts themselves look very creepy, due in no small part to the always impressive work from the KNB FX group, and John Frizell's score helps add to the tension and ups the scare factor even further.

Along with Jeepers Creepers, Thir13en Ghosts is one of the most enjoyable horror movies to emerge from the mainstream Hollywood system in the last few years, and in fact the only major gripe I have with the film is that Shannon Elizabeth kept her clothes on for its entire duration (what a waste!). Admittedly, it is a case of "style over substance", but there is more than enough style on offer here to satisfy most horror fans. See it now! You won't be disappointed.
Thir13en Ghosts is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement and is flawless in virtually every respect. Colours are rich and vibrant and shadow detail is exceptional, with the films darker moments looking more than impressive. This is without a doubt a reference quality transfer and should be used to make your non-DVD owning friends green with envy.
Thir13en Ghosts comes complete with English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. The English track is simply amazing, and puts you in the thick of the action right throughout the movie. If you are looking for a subtle audio mix, then you are out of luck. The surround channels are used aggressively from start to finish, and dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, even with all the competing sound effects. Many of the ghostly screams come at you from every single speaker, and the films musical score sounded particularly impressive, while the constant deep bass rumblings certainly tested the structural integrity of my home on more than one occasion. I fear this audio track has damaged the already tenuous relationship that I share with my neighbours, and further screenings of this disc at high volume might just attract the attention of the local constabulary. Brilliant stuff!
Extra Features
Kicking off the list of extras is a screen specific audio commentary from director Steve Beck, production designer Sean Hargreaves and make-up FX supervisor Howard Berger. This is an extremely informative track and those who enjoyed the film should find this more than interesting.

Making of Thir13en Ghosts is an 18 minute documentary which features interviews with producer extraordinaire Joel Silver, director Steve Beck and others and provides an interesting insight as to how the film was made.

The pick of the extras for me was Thir13en Ghosts Revealed, an entertaining and insightful 13 minute segment which gives us a detailed history of each of the films ghosts, complete with a fake F. Murray Abraham voice over narration and some graphic descriptions of how each individual met their demise. Also on offer is a William Castle biography with film highlights, a cast and crew list, and trailers for Thir13en Ghosts, Hollow Man and Spider Man.
The Verdict
Thir13en Ghosts is a highly enjoyable film that has been given a wonderful DVD presentation. The amazing audio and video quality combined with the impressive collection of supplementary material make this an essential addition to any mainstream horror enthusiasts collection.
Movie Score
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