Thirteen Ghosts (2002) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/03/2002

One out of five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Ridiculous, pointless, stupid, painfully bad horror movie that will make you redefine your concept of awfulness – an early contender for the worst movie of the year.

Thirteen Ghosts, like the equally appalling The House on Haunted Hill before it, is a remake of an old William Castle film. Castle was famous for inventing ‘gimmicks’ to go with his movies (an electric buzzer under the seat for a film called The Tingler and so on) and apparently the original version of Thirteen Ghosts had a special viewer that allowed the audience to choose whether or not to see the onscreen ghosts.

If only they had updated that concept and provided a viewer that enabled you to choose not to see this movie, because –make no mistake- this is a terrible, terrible film.

So, F. Murray Abraham plays a big shot ‘ghost-collector’ with the unlikely-sounding name of Cyrus Kriticos, and Matthew Lillard (from Scream) plays his self-confessed "freak" of a psychic sidekick. The opening scene, which is, for some bizarre reason, set in a junkyard, has the best bit of the movie, with Abraham intoning "RELEASE THE CUBE!" before a Very Nasty Monster Thingy kills everyone.

Suddenly, we're in Cyrus’ nephew Arthur Kriticos’ (Tony Shalhoub) house. It transpires that his wife has died in a fire and that his two kids, Shannon Elizabeth and A Really Annoying Child Actor (Alec Roberts) live with him in their dirt-poor apartment. Except that they can still afford a ‘sassy’ maid (Rah Digga – probably not the name she was born with – who is there purely to deliver clichéd lines along the lines of ‘Bunch of crazy white people gonna get me killed!’ etc).

So, they 'inherit' a Big Scary House from Crazy Uncle Abraham. The house is made of glass. They go in, along with Lillard and a lawyer, and are later joined by Embeth Davidtz, who is, she tells us "in the spiritual rehabilitation business".

The house becomes a sort of cage. There are several more Very Nasty Ghosts trapped inside it (including a naked one called "The Angry Princess", who livens things up for a while, but whose sole purpose is in fact to allow them to put 'Rated R for nudity' on the American posters, thereby fooling many innocent film-goers into thinking Shannon Elizabeth is going to be naked in this movie just like she was in American Pie. Clue: she isn’t).

Anyway, these ghosts are not happy and they start killing people to prove it. Starting with the lawyer, obviously.

This is a terrible film on almost every level imaginable. The script and the acting are appalling (Lillard by far the worst, but Abraham is right behind him), the sound seems to be operating on the principle of ‘IF IT IS LOUD, IT WILL BE SCARY’ (it isn’t), the ‘funny’ bits aren’t funny and the ‘scary’ bits aren’t scary.

In fact, every scene misfires - there are missed opportunities all through the movie and you keep thinking ‘It would have been so much better if…’ One of the deaths in particular cries out for an expensive set-piece effects shot, but instead it happens practically off-screen, which, frankly, is cheating the audience.

To take just three annoying elements of the film at random, we have: plot-holes (e.g. two of the most important characters disappear about half-way through the film and, although they later re-appear at the end, we never find out where they were); a complete disregard for the film’s internal logic (the ghosts chase people on foot); and the fact that they throw away their nastiest moment really early on.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, there’s still the ridiculously sentimental ending to sit through.

Ultimately, the only good thing to say about this film is that the set designer clearly had the time of his life, as the house looks fabulous. But that’s as far as it goes – the scariest thing about this production is the Dark Castle Entertainment logo at the beginning.

This really is a movie to be avoided at all costs. Run away.

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Thirteen Ghosts (2002) (15)
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Content updated: 17/10/2017 00:39

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