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HTF REVIEW: "Thirteen Ghosts" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 43 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 25 2002 - 02:21 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 OFFLINE   Jon_B



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Posted March 25 2002 - 02:26 PM

Thanks for the warning. I won't be seeing this one. Jon
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#3 of 43 OFFLINE   Walt Riarson

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Posted March 25 2002 - 03:14 PM

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 OFFLINE   Pete Battista

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Posted March 25 2002 - 03:20 PM

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 OFFLINE   James_Kiang



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Posted March 25 2002 - 03:22 PM

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 OFFLINE   Chris M

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Posted March 25 2002 - 03:37 PM

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 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Noel

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Posted March 25 2002 - 03:42 PM

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!
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#8 of 43 OFFLINE   LukeB



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Posted March 25 2002 - 04:01 PM

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 OFFLINE   Aaron Croft

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Posted March 25 2002 - 04:41 PM

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! -Aaron

#10 of 43 OFFLINE   Jason Hughes

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Posted March 25 2002 - 04:44 PM

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....
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#11 of 43 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted March 25 2002 - 06:50 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!
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#12 of 43 OFFLINE   Matt Pelham

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Posted March 25 2002 - 08:24 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 OFFLINE   Dan M

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Posted March 25 2002 - 10:17 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 OFFLINE   Bjorn Olav Nyberg

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Posted March 26 2002 - 01:10 AM

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 OFFLINE   John_McKittrick


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Posted March 26 2002 - 08:09 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. john
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#16 of 43 OFFLINE   Mark Lensenmaye

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Posted March 26 2002 - 08:31 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 OFFLINE   Martice



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Posted March 28 2002 - 02:08 PM

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 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted March 28 2002 - 02:14 PM


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...
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#19 of 43 OFFLINE   Blu



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Posted April 02 2002 - 04:39 PM

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 OFFLINE   Aaron Croft

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Posted April 02 2002 - 08:37 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!

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