‘Thirteen Ghosts’ translate poorly with 10 dollar movie ticket

By on November 8, 2001

What do you get when you take a broken, widowed math teacher, a psychotic uncle, a nerdy psychic, a glass house with gears and a dark secret inside? “Thirteen Ghosts,” which is the newest in the seemingly endless line of scary movies that follow the same “fight-for-your-life-and-get-scared-in-the-process” formula.
It’s the same “house-from-hell” bit just with an unorthodox twist. The house is actually a machine designed by the Devil that can see the future while being powered by thirteen ghosts. Widowed math teacher Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub – “Primary Colors”) is the over-stressed father who is struggling with financial and family trouble.
Maggie (Singer Rah Digga), the family’s babysitter makes her big-screen debut as the tension relief. “Scream” star Matthew Lillard makes his presence felt as Rafkin, the psychic ghost hunter.
The entire story is based on the house and the hidden mystery behind it. When the Kriticos family loses everything, including wife and mother Jean in a fire, the family is seemingly blessed with a miracle gift from the distant uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) of a huge glamorous house. The family soon realizes from Rafkin that the house isn’t what it appears to be. Trapped inside, the family must find a way to escape the impenetrable house but also avoid the horrifying spectres inside. The ghosts have been imprisoned by the mad Cyrus to make the demon machine work and only Arthur can prevent it.
The action continues with some decent special effects that put the viewer on the edge. There are plenty of scary image flashes and some pretty gruesome effects but that’s all. There are some good scenes but the most unique feature is the house itself. It is all glass with spells etched into the walls. The spectral glasses, which lets the family see their adversaries, are a nice change from the teleporting ghouls that haunt so many other splatter flicks.
The film’s idea was good but the story wasn’t. Director Stephen Beck makes this his first feature film after working with visual effects for “The Abyss,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “The Hunt For Red October.” The plot could have been more developed and it makes the audience feel the film isn’t finished. The picture was simply too broad in scope. “13 Ghosts” also lacks realism. The story is too broad with almost no detail and not enough real action. There are too many teases and it fails to build up with suspense.
Author William Castle originally made the “B” version in 1960. He is known for his best work, Rosemary’s Baby. This is the remake of the original film by Dark Castle entertainment, who was apparently intrigued by the idea behind the film.
Save your money. Too many stones hit this glass house and no window cleaner will help make it a worthy picture. But who knows, maybe the house will get a feature spot in Architectural Digest.

Grade: D


About David Scales - Staff Writer