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HTF REVIEW: "Thirteen Ghosts" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 43 Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 25 2002 - 09:21 AM

Posted Image

Thirteen Ghosts

"It is my professional opinion that
we should get the hell out of here now"

Yikes! Where do I begin with this?

Let me start off by saying that I never saw
William Castle's 1960 film, 13 GHOSTS -- not
that I think this a necessity for knowing that
the remake of this film is about as fun as a
root canal.

I can't begin to describe how awful this movie
is. It seems to be a cross between "Hellraiser"
and "The House on Haunted Hill", and stars a
cast of 2nd-rate actors who look embarrassed to
be a part of this film.

Posted Image

Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham)is a very
rich, eccentric collector of unique things.
When he dies suddenly, he leaves his remaining
fortune to his nephew, Arthur (Tony Shalhoub)
and his family. The fortune turns out to be
in the form of a house built entirely of
glass -- right down to the walls, ceilings
and bathroom. The house is an absolute marvel
to behold. It's a maze of glass panes that open
and close by revolving gears. It's a shame that
its beauty and technology is wasted on this film.

Posted Image

You see, the family moves into this homestead
only to find out that they share its residence
with 12 ghosts who are entrapped in the basement.
We find out that Uncle Kriticos has been playing
God by entrapping the souls of the once living
in order to fuel his home which turns out to be
a demonic machine designed by the devil and
powered by the dead. No, folks, we are not
talking about Enron here.

Posted Image

For most of the 90 minutes this film runs, I
think viewers will be amazed by this house full
of sliding walls and puzzle-cubes, but will be
disgustingly shocked by the array of ghosts that
fare to be more serial-killer freaks than haunting.

How is the transfer?

This is another satisfying transfer from
Warner Brothers, a studio who has been consistent
with the quality of their new releases.

The 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1) Transfer
is exceptionally clean. The film grain that
usually shows up in darker movies as this is
hardly evident. Though the picture sometimes
looks as if it was shot through a hazy filter,
the picture remains smooth with lots of colors
that retain their freshness. This is just another
one of those eye-pleasing transfers that is hard
to find fault with.

Posted Image

The 5.1 surround mix is sensational. Most
of the film's "eeriness" can be credited to the
circle of sound that envelopes the listening area.
From the faintest whispers of demons that suddenly
emanate from a random speaker to the more pronounced
sounds of chanting that come from all directions,
you can easily just turn off the film and get a
nervous feeling inside just by listening to the
film's surround tracks.

Special Features

Posted ImagePosted Image

Once you pop in the disc, a fairly intense
animated sequence appears that involves quick
shots of the film's demons amongst closing maze

There's a full-length feature commentary by
the film's Production Designer Sean Hargreaves
and Make UP FX Howard Berger.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Thirteen Ghosts Revealed is actually
more interesting than the film itself. This
18-minute documentary begins with the cast
and crew individually reflecting on William
Castle's original 1960 film and the fact that
it was a 3D film needing special glasses to
see things popping out at you. That same idea
of needing glasses to see ghosts has been
transformed into this remake. We meet Howard
Berger, the Special Make-up FX guy, who takes
us into studio, showings us the original
conceptual designs that influenced the shocking
creations that are let loose in the house. We
see makeup and prosthetics being added to one
of the actors who has been sitting in the chair
for 4 hours. For anyone ever interested in
extensive make-up design, this is one of the
most revealing looks at the full-body make-up
process I have seen. Next up is a chat with
Production Designer, Sean Hargreaves, takes us
on the set, through his wonderful glass house,
describing the difficulty of shooting through it.
It is essential for the crew to wear dark clothing
as reflections are easily given off. It's on to
computer graphics when Visual FX Supervisor,
Michael Fink, takes us through the 3D elements
that were created for this film. We are taken
through a step-by-step procedure on how the house's
huge gear-machine center was digitally created.
It's an amazing look at how one of the movie's
most impressive FX shots was created layer-by-layer.

As I noted above, watching this exceptionally
detailed documentary was more enjoyable than
the film itself.

Here's a very interesting feature. GHOST
takes us through the glass house's
main doors and up to the library where we stop
at a shelf filled with 13 articles ranging from
a shoe, a bunch of playing cards, to a trophy.
All these artifacts represent something belonging
to the 12 Ghosts of the household. Click on an
item and you are taken through a filmed segment
tracing the life history of each ghost. Each
segment is cleverly filmed with an eerie story
combined with B&W newsreel footage.

Tricky "Excess" Club Reel is the complete
music video for the film.

In addition to the usual Cast and Crew
, there is a text-based Biography
of Producer/Director William Castle, who is
responsible for the 1960 film. It's interesting
to read that he got his very first role on
Broadway at the age of 15, pretending to be the
nephew of Samuel Goldwyn.

Lastly, the film's Original Theatrical Trailer
is included.

Final Thoughts

Warner Brothers has done far more justice to
this film than it deserves by creating a Special
Edition DVD whose only worth is its extra content.

Thirteen Ghosts is a bad film. It's hard
to imagine that Robert Zemeckis's name is attached
to the production credits. And what ever happened
to F. Murray Abraham's career that he ended up
in this mess?

The only true scary thing about this DVD is that
there are going to be people who will buy it.

Release Date: April 2, 2002

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 43 Jon_B



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Posted March 25 2002 - 09:26 AM

Thanks for the warning. I won't be seeing this one.

I'm Back Online

#3 of 43 Walt Riarson

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Posted March 25 2002 - 10:14 AM

If it's as "awful" as everyone said House on Haunted Hill was, I'm sure it's truly not all that bad.

House on Haunted Hill was a remake of a film that wasn't all that classic to begin with, and for the most part didn't try to be the typical "safe" Scream-type horror film (though the ending still makes me mad). It had a great score, great make-up effects, and was truly bizarre at times. Could it have been better? Yes. Still, no reason to fault a filmmaker for trying to make an honest-to-God horror movie, instead of a "psychological thriller." HoHH is leaps and bounds better than a lot of the modern-day excuses for horror.

I'll take my chances on Thirteen Ghosts.

"My advice to young film-makers is this: Don't follow trends. Start them!" -- Frank Capra

#4 of 43 Pete Battista

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Posted March 25 2002 - 10:20 AM

Thanks for the review and what looks to be great screenshots Ron!!! I am a huge horror fanatic so bad review or not I will atleast have to give this one a rent! I have the original which I thought was very good.... not great but very good all the same. but hey.... you never know I may like it.... everyone has their own tastes Posted Image


#5 of 43 James_Kiang



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Posted March 25 2002 - 10:22 AM

I had planned on getting this one anyway but hearing about the picture quality and the extras only makes me that much more eager for it. I did see this one in the theaters and, like House on Haunted Hill, I do think it is much better than most people give it credit for. Sure, most of the entertainment is based on just the visuals, but they are good visuals. Loads better than The Haunting (remake - I still have to see the original) though not a good enough story/acting to put it over The Others (pretty much a completely different type of horro film).

#6 of 43 Chris M

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Posted March 25 2002 - 10:37 AM

I too saw this in theater, and think it's a pretty FUN movie... I got scared outta my skin when seeing it!
I definately think this is better than critics give it credit for. Okay, I agree it's not a great film... or even a good film, but it WAS FUN. Posted Image

My suggestion, if you want some fun, scares and a sexy nude naked woman, this is yer film! Posted Image Just don't expect a masterpiece.


#7 of 43 Jeffrey Noel

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Posted March 25 2002 - 10:42 AM

I too found this movie to be rather enjoyable, however it doesn't take that good of a movie to do that! :b

I will definitely be picking this up when it hits the shelves! Thanks for the review Ron! Posted Image
God bless!
jeffrey noel

As we slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.

#8 of 43 LukeB



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Posted March 25 2002 - 11:01 AM

Agreed that it is a bad movie. Shalhoub is capable of good work, in both comedy and drama...this was just painful to watch.

#9 of 43 Aaron Croft

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Posted March 25 2002 - 11:41 AM

I found the movie visually appealing, but all in all this was a terrible film. Definitely worth a rent to check out the effects and the few creepy ghosts that you get... and the design of the house is cool.. but the acting and the characters in general were AWEFUL..

Be warned.. definitely not a "sight unseen" recomendation.

But have fun if you like this of course!


#10 of 43 Jason Hughes

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Posted March 25 2002 - 11:44 AM

I thought is was good eye candy, not very scary, but watchable with your brain turned off. The design of the house was pretty cool and some of the killers/ghosts were well done.

The dialogue on the other hand....
Government in action = Government inaction

#11 of 43 Malcolm R

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Posted March 25 2002 - 01:50 PM

Definitely good for a few scares. I freaked when the girl was being attacked by the "Jackal" ghost (or was it "Jaguar"?). Whatever, I found it rather intense. Posted Image And the whole gimmick with the glasses was pretty creepy. Invisible ghosts that can rip you to shreds.....eeeeek!
The purpose of an education is to replace an empty mind with an open mind.

#12 of 43 Matt Pelham

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Posted March 25 2002 - 03:24 PM

I actually really liked 13 Ghosts. When someone calls a film terrible I ususally take that as meaning not entertaining, but 13 ghosts was a very fun ride. No, it doesn't hold up with the story or script, but it's very nice to look at and the fx were great. I will definitly be picking this one up.

#13 of 43 Dan M

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Posted March 25 2002 - 05:17 PM

Sorry you didn't like 13 Ghosts Ron,

I found it reasonably entertaining in a guilty pleasure sort of way :b

It kept my attention throughout and that's usually all I require in order to enjoy a movie.

Being the horror movie fan that I am I'll probably be picking this up. Fun to watch around Halloween time.

Plus it'll make a great bookend for 1999's House On Haunted Hill.

#14 of 43 Bjorn Olav Nyberg

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Posted March 25 2002 - 08:10 PM

I also thought The house on haunted hill was very fun (although the ending was bad), and the comments in this thread has convinced me as well that I might just go ahead and get it sight unseen. Thanks everybody!
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#15 of 43 John_McKittrick


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Posted March 26 2002 - 03:09 AM

Well I'm sure this movie was better than Driven, so I'll at least be renting it. Everybody I've spoken to like 13 Ghosts. Different strokes for different folks.

Long Live XBox and DVD!!

#16 of 43 Mark Lensenmaye

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Posted March 26 2002 - 03:31 AM

In Ron Epstein's review, he stated, "This
18-minute documentary begins with the cast
and crew individually reflecting on William
Castle's original 1960 film and the fact that
it was a 3D film needing special glasses to
see things popping out at you."

The original 13 GHOSTS was NOT a 3-D movie. It used an entirely different gimmick. The audience was given a viewer with a red filter and a blue filter. When prompted from the screen, the audience member had a choice of looking through the blue filter to see the ghost, or, if the audience member was "too afraid", they could look through the red filter and see just the background. At those points in the film, the black-and-white film took on a blue tint, with red for the ghosts.

It is a very effective gimmick...one of Castle's best. I saw it in a theatre about 3 years, and the audience had a wonderful time.

The DVD of the Castle original does a very good job of duplicating the original effect.

Mark Lensenmayer

#17 of 43 Martice



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Posted March 28 2002 - 09:08 AM

If the FX (Audio & Video)are up to par then it will be ok in my demo folder. I've demoed The Haunting so much that I started to like the movie. I already bought 13 Ghosts and I'll watch it tonight.
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#18 of 43 Colin Jacobson

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Posted March 28 2002 - 09:14 AM

a sexy nude naked woman

Underneath the makeup, she's hot, but I'm a little worried if you thought she looked enticing with all those scars!

stars a cast of 2nd-rate actors

Knock the others if you must - though just like Haunted Hill, Ghosts DOES boast an Oscar winner - but back off on Shalhoub!Posted Image He's usually terrific, though oddly bland here...

Personally, I thought Ghosts was reasonably entertaining. I don't usually like this kind of flick, but I thought some of the action scenes were exciting, and the house itself was quite cool. Nothing special, but more enjoyable than I expected. It IS a terrific DVD in regard to pic and sound quality, too...
Colin Jacobson

#19 of 43 Blu



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Posted April 02 2002 - 11:39 AM

I thought it was a entertaining ride. This is the kind of movie it is, a horror/scifi flick, ya get what you expect. It is all dependent upon expectations I believe.

#20 of 43 Aaron Croft

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Posted April 02 2002 - 03:37 PM

"It is all dependent upon expectations I believe. "

Yes.. maybe that was the problem. The preview made it out to be a pretty serious/suspensful horror movie... for me at least it turned out to be a cookie-cutter let's see what dumb thing people will do next kinda movie. I dunno.. I guess it takes more then some good effects/ghosts to impress me. Like maybe a story that was interesting and/or made sense Posted Image A movie can be bad and still be entertaining, but for me, this movie was beyond bad.

But to each his own!