Once again deciding to rely entirely on creepy art direction, set design, and half-assed CGI, Silver is back again at the whole "haunted house" game. Last time he handed up a haunted insane asylum (House on Haunted Hill) and a group of under- or overrated actors and said "boo." This time he hands us Shannon Elizabeth, Tony Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, F. Murray Abraham, all sequestered in a glass house with Latin written across its walls -- oh yeah, and let's not forget the comic relief nanny (Rah Digga).
Abraham plays Cyrus, eccentric millionaire obsessed with trapping spirits and bending them to his own purpose (in this case, predicting the future). Cyrus is using Lillard, as a pill-popping psychic, to locate his ghosts and trap them in cubes. Sadly for Cyrus, ghost #12 doesn't take to nicely to this and decides to short-circuit Cyrus' life.
Cut to Arthur (Shaloub), widower (watched his wife burn in a house fire), single parent, and Cyrus's long-lost nephew. When a creepy lawyer shows up at Arthur's door with an even creepier laptop and a yet even creepier message from old Uncle Cyrus telling him that he's the new owner of a really creepy-looking house, well, then you know something ain't gonna go right in all of this. But hey... despite the double indemnity Arthur would surely have gotten from the fire and life insurance, he decides, what the hey, and off they go to the house that Cyrus built.
The rest of the movie is as by-the-numbers as my little synopsis. All told, 13 Ghosts has more cheap thrills than a Giant Eagle-turned-Haunted House for Halloween. The only thing it's missing is an ominous narrator (they're saving that for the sequel). Ghosts' ghosts are vastly unoriginal (suicidal girl taken straight out of The Shining, insane asylum victims, kid with arrow through forehead, etc., etc.), but it does win points for the effectiveness with which the ghosts come into play. The majority of the audience, for better or worse, was screaming, shaking, yelping, booing, hissing, and yelling throughout the movie, and with an atmosphere like that 13 Ghosts becomes something you can endure -- which is not to say that the film is going to end up on anyone's top ten list.
Ultimately, 13 Ghosts is a one-trick pony that plays all of the cards in its hand and leaves with that contrived "family closure" ending, leaving us to remember only a pile of cheap scare gags, bad acting, and useless one-liners. But it is Halloween, I guess, and nobody said this was Einstein's favorite holiday.
On DVD you'll find plenty of extras, including a commentary track and a featurette spotlighting the film's impressive set design and makeup effects, but alas nowhere is there the key to making the film make sense.
Aka Thirteen Ghosts and Thir13en Ghosts.
The writing's on the wall...
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st July 1960
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: William Castle Productions, Columbia Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Steve Beck
Screenwriter: Neal Stevens, Richard D'Ovidio
Starring: Charles Herbert as Buck Zorba, Jo Morrow as Medea Zorba, Martin Milner as Ben Rush, Rosemary DeCamp as Hilda Zorba, Margaret Hamilton as Elaine Zacharides, Donald Woods as Cyrus Zorba, John van Dreelen as Van Allen