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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/12/02

Thir13en Ghosts
2001 (2002) - Warner Bros.

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Thir13en Ghosts Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/B+

Specs and Features

91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, Snapper case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 41:45 in chapter 10), audio commentary (with director Steve Beck, production designer Sean Hargreaves and special effects supervisor Howard Berger), 13 Ghosts Revealed "making of" documentary, William Castle biography and filmography, Ghost Files, Club Reel music video for Excess by Tricky, theatrical trailer, cast and crew list, DVD-ROM features (including the film's website), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1, dubbed in Quebec), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Revisiualized and gored-up a bit from the original Columbia Pictures version, this Thir13en Ghosts at least stays true to the original vision's set-up. A down on its luck family finds out they've inherited a house from their slightly more than wacky uncle. Once they move in, they learn that the house is filled to the roof-beams with ghosts. And these ghosts are pissed. In this modern rethinking of the B-grade classic, the house is made of unbreakable and soundproof glass, with incantations written on every surface, and the ghosts are brutal in both demeanor and design. There's the Exorcist look-a-like "Jackal", who claws his victims with his skeletal fingers. There's the lusciously grotesque "Tortured Princess;" naked save for her open gashes and sharp knife. Let's not forget the burly and unredeemable "Juggernaut" and, of course, Pinhead taken to another level with "The Hammer," a man with railroad spikes driven into every part of his body. These are just a snapshot of the twelve ghosts living in the house. Why the house is filled with ghosts in the first place and how the family fits in, is all part of the fun. And honestly, this flick is fun... at least up until the lame-assed ending.

Thir13en Ghosts is a Halloween roller coaster. That's all it is and that's all it was meant to be. The effects are great, the chills plentiful and the new take on an old set-up works. I actually liked the movie for what it was. But as I said above, the ending is pretty weak. Up until then, the movie had me squirming in my chair. Then the ending had to go and spoil everything. I'm just going to forget the whole ending and remember this movie up until then. And there's an interesting twist that's a holdover from the original film - instead of the audience having to wear special glasses to see the ghosts, the characters in the film do. It's a very cool device and it lends to the horror in a good way, because in certain scenes we see what they can't and that makes for some tense moments. Check this flick out, it's not half bad.

The DVD is pretty cool too. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is virtually perfect. The blacks are so dark, they're cold. Line detail is incredible, with no ringing, and you'd be hard pressed to find one spec of artifacting. This is one of the best transfers put out by Warner yet. The sound is nice and loud in all its Dolby Digital 5.1 glory. There's plenty of play in the surrounds and good, centered dialogue up front. In theaters, this film thumped hard. In your home, this DVD sound does its best to replicate that.

Happily, this DVD is also a nice special edition. I was hoping the disc would have some explanations for the ghosts and some of their back-stories. Well, they're here - not exactly the way I hoped, but it's still a nice effort. The Ghost Files section is verbally introduced by F. Murray Abraham as Uncle Cyrus, who takes us through his museum of ghosts. Each is represented by an artifact and when you click on it, it goes into a short story about their past. Some make sense, others don't and pretty much all of them contradict the online versions of their tales in the Black Zodiac section of the official site. That's also here too, via DVD-ROM. You'll also find a fun audio commentary with the director and key members of the crew. The discussion is light-hearted and goes into good detail about the shoot, how they did some of the stuff they did and how it all came together. And if you want even more on that, there's a very nice documentary about the making of the film as well, with some nice behind-the-scenes stuff on the ghosts. Rounding it all out is the trailer, a listing of the crew, the video for Excess by Tricky and an extensive bio of producer William Castle, who made the original film.

Thirteen Ghosts is a pretty cool shocker. It had me for a while. I liked the ghost designs, the set-up and a lot of the characters. It's definitely not a worthless flick and should be on everyone's DVD viewing list this Halloween. It's a long ways away, but it's never too late to plan your next Halloween party.

Todd Doogan
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