And the winner of dumbest title goes to….
Thirteen Ghosts (yeah I’m not spelling it that stupid way again) is a remake of a terrible films from the 1960s, and one that I remembered kind of liking when it came out. After watching it again I can only assume that I had no taste as a teenager.
The film is kind of a remake, but it is more like a complete redo of the original idea. Only fragments of the original script remain. We follow Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) who is a widower now struggling to raise two children. He learns that a distant uncle has died, and left his home to him. Here is about where the similarities between the two films end. Arthur is more likable than his 1960s counterpart, he is also smarter, which is a nice plus. The family unit this time around isn’t idiotic.
The house is now a character, and it is a massive structure of glass and moving parts. I think the idea behind it is kind of cool, but in execution is gets a little repetitive. I would be curious to count how much of the running time is just staring at an empty hallway. If this film could be summed up in a nutshell it would be: interesting ideas with crap execution. If you read the script of a synopsis you might think this movie was onto something. Thirteen ghosts that line up with dark zodiacs to power a machine built by the devil. Corny? Sure. However, it has the nuts and bolts of at least an entertaining film.
The ghosts themselves are much more present here, and this is a benefit (despite poor execution). Each one has a unique quality to them, and each idea is interesting, but the effects make them look more like Resident Evil extras than anything else. The tone of the film is trying to be something more serious than the setting allows, and this creates an uneven viewing experience. The effects team went too over the top and we have cartoons instead of scares.
Arthur’s paternal needs to save his children grate against the psychic Dennis’ (Matthew Lillard) Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura impressions. Dennis is overacted and hard to take—I think Lillard may have been flexing for his eventually casting as Shaggy in Scooby Doo here while Shalhoub seems to be contemplating ways to get away with killing his agent.
The film tries to throw some twists at you, but they telegraph them a bit too much. Once again, we have an attempt to shake up the genre, but something along the way did not work when they executed it. It seems like they just CGIed everything or cut corners. A film this expensive should not be so sloppy.
This is one of the earlier attempts at mainstreaming a rated R horror film, and it is clear that they did not know who to aim the film towards. In a lot of ways this might have worked better as a PG-13 film as I think that is who they were targeting. In the effort to expand the audience wider they ended up alienating both. Serious gorehounds or horror fans won’t like it, and the R rating prevents teen screamers. I think this is an important film for that reason though—it shows they were trying to branch horror into more brutal directions while being mainstream. Sure, this one failed, but at least it was trying to move in the right direction. 2/10