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13 Ghosts

Halloween house party

Want to see a scary movie for Halloween? Itching to grab your date with adrenaline-infused fright? Not satisfied with watching a cheesy feel-good flick? Well, you have a number of films from which to choose; horror movies and thrillers have fast become the genres du jour. 13 Ghosts is one of the latest movies to explore the concept of the haunted house. Directed by Steve Beck, it's a remake of the 1960 William Castle film of the same name.

You are introduced to the Zorba family- Arthur (Tony Shalhoub, well-known for his role as a taxi driver on the TV sitcom Wings), Bobby (Alec Roberts) and Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth)- struggling to recover from a major loss and financial woes that suddenly inherit a state of the art house from a distant uncle named Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham). As the will is laid out, there are inadvertent references to the movie Brewster's Millions with Richard Pryor, in which a down and out guy inherits $300 million from a long-lost uncle. While in each film the uncles are both crazy lunatics, the situation here deals with avarice and evil. However, it seems the Zorbas have not yet seen this movie, so they immediately take up the offer and discover that the place comes with some strings attached.

The house seems like an amazing marvel of architecture and science. As the uncle's creepy estate manager states, "It's a living work of art." Every wall in the house is made out of glass, and most have "containment spells" written in Latin all over them. The spells are for the "strings" that the house comes with; 12 vicious ghosts trapped inside ready to do some damage.

What makes 13 Ghosts so frightening and mysterious, besides the insane spirits of course, is the camerawork. Swift camera movements, superb editing and an eerie soundtrack reminiscent of The Exorcist all combine to create nerve-wracking tension. For the sensitive viewer: beware- this movie has some gory special effects.

The acting and dialogue is in another realm altogether. These people could win a prize for their complete lack of communication skills. No one in the film explains anything to one another, much less to the audience. The evil mastermind who made his mark in the original Scream, Matthew Lillard, here plays a psychic ghost hunter, or "spirit reclamationsist" named Rafkin. While he does a good job of playing a weirdo with a heart, the other characters fly into the wind like so much fluff. Of course, there's also the token person of color with attitude, which a horror movie just can't seem to do without, played by Rah Digga, who is a nanny/cook/cleaner for the Zorbas.

It's what you don't see that gets you scared and what you don't know that makes your mind wonder anxiously. However, 13 Ghosts leaves too much out. The ghosts are essentially the main characters and get more play than anyone else, and yet you are told very little about them. You want to know more; for example, why are they psychotic? But, for these details, you'll have to use your imagination. Secondly, there are also some points that just don't add upó like how a family that has absolutely no money could afford to have a live-in maid/cook/nanny? Unfortunately, after a very frightening adventure, the ending withers away into a soap opera-esque melodrama. If you can deal with all the gaps and swallow the drama, then you'll be in store for a scary trip.


13 Ghosts
Rated R
1 hour 28 minutes

F. Murray Abraham
Tony Shalhoub
Shannon Elizabeth
Kathryn Anderson
J.R. Bourne