Monday, May 30, 2016

Film Review: Thirteen Ghosts (2001)

Thirteen Ghosts (Review)
United States/Canada/2001
Format Viewed For Review: HBO Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"The ghost designs, their backgrounds, and the gore... it was refreshing for a ghost film."

When his uncle passes, Arthur (Tony Shalhoub), a widower father of two, inherits a large glass house full of his uncle's prized possessions, which include a set of malicious ghosts...

Thirteen Ghost is an interesting film. This isn't the same ol' haunted house film we get nowadays. The story follows widower Arthur, his two children, Kathy and Bobby, and their nanny Maggie. Arthur and his family are burdened by debt, struggling to get by. One day, a lawyer visits Arthur to inform him of his uncle's passing and will. (They don't seem to notice the damn near satanic wallpaper on the lawyer's laptop for some reason...) Anyway, Arthur inherits a beautiful glass house filled with valuable artifacts. Unfortunately, Arthur's dreams are soiled when Dennis (Matthew Lillard), a psychic posing as an electrician, reveals the truth behind the house – it's filled with ghosts. From there, the group fight for survival and try to escape. The plot can be a bit cheesy at times, but it is interesting and original. The ending was okay, but I felt it was spoiled by the last few seconds.


Thirteen Ghosts may not have the best narrative. It has a few holes, some sloppy exposition, and a few corny moments. The characters are also generic. They feel very... 90s. In fact, you might notice this sensation during the intro credits – that screamed cheesy 90s to me. Yet, the film felt refreshing and exciting. This isn't your jump-scare horror movie. This film relies on its grotesque visuals – and it works. Some of the special effects are outdated, but most of the visuals are chilling. I loved it. The ghost designs, their backgrounds, and the gore... it was refreshing for a ghost film. I will say this, though: some of the scenes would have been much better if they weren't so over-edited. Otherwise, this is a great way to kill 90 minutes.

Tony Shalhoub does well as the leading man. Matthew Lillard is a bit hit-or-miss, occasionally over-acting, but he does well enough, too. The cast is more than serviceable. The music is good, blending well with the film. The film looks fine, but it can be jarring due to the editing. It's a little too flashy for me at times. The film is written by Robb White and Neal Marshall Stevens and directed by Steve Beck. I like the story, but the plot could have benefited from deeper characters. A longer runtime would have given more time to develop the ghosts, too. Although there isn't much suspense, Beck packs plenty of thrills in this 90 minute feature.

Overall, Thirteen Ghosts is a good horror film. If you're tired of the same old haunted house jump-scare marathons, I think you'll enjoy this. It has its fair share of issues, but it is very enjoyable. Worth a rental for the curious and a cheap purchase for horror fans.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, nudity.

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