Thir13en Ghosts

Year: 2001
Director: Steve Beck
IMDB Link:


Have you ever seen a movie that you really wanted to like, and yet you just couldn’t?  That’s the way I feel about Thirteen…I mean, Thir13en Ghosts.  I was a fan of both House on Haunted Hill and Ghost Ship, both similar remakes of old horror movies from Dark Castle Entertainment.  I like Matthew Lillard and Tony Shalhoub, and Shannon Elizabeth is always a hottie, and hell, they had F. Murray Abraham!  This movie should have been awesome.  But it wasn’t.

In the movie, Arthur Kriticos (Shalhoub) has lost his wife and is in danger of losing his family home.  He has two kids, Kathy (Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts).  His problems seem to be over when his uncle, Cyrus (Abraham) passes away and leaves his house to Arthur.

The house, however, is not a normal house.  It’s a glass house with spells etched into the panels.  Dennis Rafkin (Lillard), Cyrus’s former assistant, shows up and tries to stop the family from becoming trapped in the house, which happens anyway.  It seems old uncle Cyrus was experimenting with ghosts and has trapped twelve special ghosts in the basement of the weird house in an attempt to fuel a machine that would give him immortality (or something…I’m not entirely clear because the movie isn’t entirely clear).

As you might expect, bad things happen.  The little boy ends up separated, the ghosts are released one by one, Matthew Lillard is squished under glass…and Shannon Elizabeth gets naked (so it’s not all bad).  The story is very erratic.  We know there are these different, very detailed ghosts, but the movie doesn’t do much more than introduce them.  The DVD actually has profiles for each, but the movie itself doesn’t give you any real information on most of them.  Additionally, the ghost effect makes it very difficult to tell some of the ghosts from others.  It may have worked well on a theater screen, but at home the ghosts are a murky mess.

The big climax of the story is when the “ghost” of uncle Cyrus shows up and the kids are placed in the center of the machine.  Arthur has to rescue them, but at the last second, and for absolutely no reason whatsoever, he realizes that Cyrus is not a ghost and is still alive.  Again, there isn’t a single reason he’d suspect this.  He just suddenly rationalizes that Cyrus must be alive, despite everything appearing to the contrary, and he goes after his crazed uncle.

There’s also part of the plot that Arthur’s wife is one of the ghosts and maybe uncle Cyrus killed her, and Matthew Lillard’s character feels guilty for being involved.  However, this isn’t played off well and generally you start to realize that the movie is nothing but a bunch of good character actors all jammed together, along with a hot girl getting naked.  If this were a comedy, that might work, but the movie plays itself remarkably straight, more so than House on Haunted Hill or Ghost Ship.  Some of the things the characters do are just random, like the little boy going down into the basement or Shannon Elizabeth taking a bath for no reason than to get naked.  There’s just so much that seems disconnected and stupid that the whole movie just stutters and fails to deliver any sort of meaningful plot.

I’m not sure if perhaps the movie was meant to be much longer with more backstory for the ghosts and more explanation for some of the actions of the characters.  If it was and a director’s cut surfaces some day that makes this clear, I’d be willing to watch it again.  However, as it stands, I recommend avoiding this movie and just catching the Shannon Elizabeth scenes on YouTube.

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