Thir13en Ghosts Review

Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham), an eccentric ghost hunter, dies. He leaves his house to his nephew Arthur (Tony Shalhoub). Previously down on his luck, Arthur and his children Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) plus nanny Maggie (Rah Digga, a rapper who also performs the song played over the end credits) move into the spectacularly designed house. However, they soon find that the house has a mind of its own. Locked in and trapped by strangely shifting walls, and threatened by spiritual entities also living inside the house, the family and two ghost hunters, Kalina (Embeth Davidtz) and Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) have to solve a puzzle or face destruction…

Thir13en Ghosts (yes, that is the on-screen title) is based on a William Castle B-movie from 1960. The best Castle films (though I haven’t seen this one), despite – or because of – all their gimmicks remain watchable and good fun four decades later. However, as with the recent remake of House on Haunted Hill, I can’t see this film lasting long in people’s affections. A surprisingly strong B-list cast (Shalhoub, Davidtz, Abraham) evidently needed the money. And Matthew Lillard’s strenuous hamming once again wrecks every single scene he appears in.

On its American release, Thir13en Ghosts was touted as a return to hard-gore horror in reaction to the “quiet” scares that had been in fashion over the past few years…a claim that sits uneasily with the 15 certificate that the BBFC has given the film. Yes, there are gory scenes in Thir13en Ghosts, most notably one character vertically bisected by a pane of glass. Along with a very busy, not to mention loud, digital-stereo soundtrack, they may just keep you awake. There’s a lot of action, but it’s really just movement. It doesn’t help tell a story or keep you involved. Lines like “I’m in the spirit reclamation business” hint that all of this isn’t meant to be taken seriously. However, this comes across as a film that has failed as horror trying to pass itself off as a comedy. Even at 91 minutes the film long outstays its welcome.

Director Steve Beck certainly has some flashy moves: check out the opening credits sequence, and see how he establishes an entire backstory by means of a 360° pan and a non-matching soundtrack. One of these days, when he stops trying to impress us and concentrates on telling a story, he might make a decent film. All Thir13en Ghosts proves is that a film can be stuffed to the gills with “action” and still be a thorough bore.



out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:06:29

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