Thir13en Ghosts (13 Ghosts)

Directed by Steve Beck
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, JR Bourne, Alec Roberts, F. Murray Abraham.
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence/gore, nudity and some language.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <evy@filmhead.com>
October 31, 2001

OK, let's take a good look at the MPAA rating for this one -- "horror violence/gore, nudity and some language." The advertisers for 13 Ghosts know that America's basically twisted, yet good-naturedly depraved youth like these things, so they quoted the rating in a way to imply that the film is unbelievably gory and that Shannon Elizabeth gets naked. Lies, all lies. First of all, there are nipples in this film, but they are not Shannon Elizabeth's. The nipples belong to a dead, cut up, knife wielding ghost. As far as gore, OK there are some gross deaths, but nothing that extreme. When a movie advertises based mainly on the level of gore, I want entrails, vivisection, and rivers of blood. You hear me, executive producer Zemeckis, rivers of blood. See Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead) before you try to lure me into a movie with promises of gore.

This lame attempt at a gorefest is yet another remake of a Rob White movie. White is the original writer for The House on Haunted Hill, as well as the 1960s gimmick horror film 13 Ghosts.

In the 1960s as well as the 2001 13 ghosts, a family inherits a haunted house from their crazy adventurer uncle. In the 2001 version, the family is headed by a single father (Tony Shalhoub) and a sassy nanny (Rah Digga); the mother died in a fire during the opening credits.

I actually got a big kick out of the remake of The House on Haunted Hill. It featured some lovely overacting by Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen as well as Chris Kattan doing a wonderful rendition of my favorite stock character in horror comedy: state-the-obvious man. It also was a self-contained, simple, silly movie. It wasn't really scary, it was just a lot of fun. 13 Ghosts has the potential to be a lot of fun. It also has the potential to be really scary, or to be one of those great horror films that makes a statement on the basic screwed up condition of mankind (like Cube or The Shining). What 13 Ghosts turns out to be is unfinished. The movie is really short, only about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. Background information that would fill out the film is missing. The movie also sets up interesting character features that never pay off. The opening scene of mass killing sets a standard of violence that the rest of the movie never again reaches. The remaining body count is four, and only one of them dies in a gruesome way.

Shannon Elizabeth as the daughter does nothing in the film but scream. Alec Roberts as the son Bobby has a great character at the beginning of the film. Bobby, as a result of his mothers death, is obsessed with death and narrates a running count of tragic deaths into his tape recorder. What happens when this morbid kid meets ghosts? Nothing exciting. He screams and runs away just like his completely pointless sister. Tony Shalhoub plays the father and his character and performance has depth and emotion, but the film doesn't allow him to go beyond totally predictable depression and uplift. F. Murray Abraham as the crazy uncle and Matthew Lillard as a psychic who sees ghosts are talented performers who sleepwalk through this one. The movie sometimes addresses how being a psychic could screw up a person's life and during these scenes Lillard actually acts, but the rest of the time he just says his lines. Maybe Lillard would have been better if the script had continued to focus on the interesting rather than trite parts of his character.

The movie might be worth renting for Tony Shalhoub fans and for a few nifty "ghost world overlaps real world" scenes, but the movie as a whole really isn't very much of anything.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
13 Ghosts (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
13 Ghosts: Original Motion Picture Score -- Compact Disc


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