• Thir13en Ghosts (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 28th, 2020.
    Director: Steve Beck
    Cast: Tony Shaloub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Alec Roberts, Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham
    Year: 2001
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    Thir13en Ghosts – Movie Review:

    Joe Leydon, of the San Francisco Examiner, said of the 2001 'remake' of William Castle's Thirteen Ghosts that is Steve Beck's Thir13en Ghosts that it was "A nightmare come true for fans of seriously scary movies!" Joe Leydon is a liar.

    When the film begins, we get a prologue of sorts where an occultist named Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) works with a ghost expert named Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) and a few others in a junkyard where they’re attempting to trap some ghosts. It doesn’t end well.

    After that, we land in the chaotic apartment of a recently widowed math teacher named Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shaloub) as he struggles to get ready for work. His young death-obsessed son, Bobby (Alec Roberts), is eating breakfast near the hired sitter, Maggie Bess (Rah Digga), while his teenaged daughter Kathy sits nearby. Arthur gets up and trips over Bobby's scooter just as a lawyer named Benjamin Moss (JR Bourne) randomly arrives at the door. It seems that Cyrus, Arthur’s estranged uncle, has, for reasons never properly explained, left his massive estate and fortune to Arthur’s family. Everyone is stoked, because this will get them out of the apartment, into a huge home and hopefully put an end to their financial trouble.

    Moss escorts the four of them to the home, which is… odd to say the least. It looks to be made almost entirely out of glass and has arcane writing all over it. Rafkin arrives outside, posing as an electric company employee, and soon starts ranting about ghosts. He’s dismissed as a lunatic at first, but soon, when Arthur’s kids vanish into the basement, he starts to take the guy more seriously. As it turns out, Cyrus’ house was ‘designed by the devil and powered by the dead’ and its basement contains a host of ghosts, kept there by that arcane writing, actually spells of protection. The ghosts are only visible to those wearing special glasses that look like the protective goggles you wear on the squash court. Anyway, eventually, another ghost hunted named Kalina Oretzia (Embeth Davidtz) shows up to help Arthur save his kids, but will it be enough when they have to contend with spectral monsters like ‘The Juggernaut’ and ‘The Torso?’

    This might be a fun exercise in style over substance if the movie’s style weren’t dominated by bad early-2000’s CGI work, but that’s definitely the style employed here. Full marks to KNB effects for some decent looking practical makeup effects in a few scenes, but the CGI here has not aged well at all. On top of that, the story is a mess. If Cyrus is so estranged from the rest of his family, why does he give the house to Arthur, who earlier states that his fabulously wealthy uncle had squandered the family fortune? Should Arthur and his family not be a little worried by the way that the house is laid out? Why are the ghosts only visible if you wear squash glasses? The science behind this is questionable – which is fair, it’s a ghost story after all – but the writing just feels sloppy and disjointed. On top of that, there’s really zero character development.

    It isn’t fair to say that the performances are bad, because they’re not, it’s that the characters are poorly written. Shaloub is fine in his lead role but seems miscast. Elizabeth doesn’t have much to do here but she does it well enough, and Alec Roberts is fine as the token kid. Rah Digga has a few amusing lines and Matthew Lillard plays the quirky ghost hunter well enough. Embeth Davidtz is fine. Again, everyone is fine, but the characters are not, they’re shallow and dull, which, come to think of it, describes this movie rather well.

    Thir13en Ghosts – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Thir13en Ghosts to Blu-ray in a presentation that would appear to be sourced from the same transfer that was used for the Warner Brothers Blu-ray release from a few years back. The image is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, with the feature given a tad under 30GBs of space on the 50GB disc. It’s a good transfer that stops short of reference quality, showing nice detail while still looking just a tad soft at times and occasionally struggling with some flatness. Colors look nice, they’re reproduced very well, and there are no problems with any noticeable compression issues to gripe about. Skin tones look good, black levels are solid enough even if, during the scenes with a lot of CGI, they can sometimes look a bit lighter than maybe would be ideal.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track scores full marks. This is a very aggressive track that, once the action moves to the house, is loaded with excellent directional effects and a host of impressive depth. Dialogue always stays clean and clear and the track is perfectly balanced. The score has some strength behind it, as do all of the effects. In short, this sounds fantastic. An optional DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also included and removable subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with director Steve Beck, moderated by Justin Beahm, Conducted over Skype due to the current situation, they cover a lot of ground, from the origins of the project to the script to casting the film to what it was like shooting in British Columbia. They cover the effects, the score, the reception to the film and quite a bit of other related content. Carried over from past home video releases is the archival commentary that includes Beck as well as production designer Sean Hargreaves and special makeup effects artist Howard Berger. It’s heavy on technical behind the scenes details, covering the genesis of the project, what went into creating the set that became the giant glass house, the blending of digital and practical effects work and more.

    Shout! Factory has also put together five new featurettes, starting with Haunted In Canada, an Interview with actress Shannon Elizabeth that runs for ten-minutes and covers her getting cast in the film, working with the director and producer, how she got along with Lillard and Shaloub in particular, the house set, shooting the film in Canada and fan reception to the film almost twenty-years after it was made. The Voice Of Reason interviews actor Matthew Harrison about his time playing Damon (one of the ghost hunter types) in the film for fourteen-minutes. Here we learn about auditioning for the part, his thoughts on his character, working with F. Murray Abraham and Lillard and the makeup effects that he had to deal with on the shoot. The Juggernaut Speaks spends nine-minutes with actor John DeSantis who details how he fell in love with the movies at a young age, his military service, how he got into acting, background on his character, makeup effects from the shoot and more. Herbert Duncanson is up next in the six-minute The Hammer Speaks, where he covers how he lucked into the part, backstory on his character and why he was covered in nails, the makeup that he had to deal with and what it was like on set. The fifth and final new interview is Sophomore Spookshow ,an interview with producer Gilbert Adler that lasts for six-minutes and details forming Dark Castle after finishing up Tales From The Crypt for HBO, remaking The House On Haunted Hill and then this feature, the impressive visual scope of the film and his thoughts on the picture overall.

    Thir13en Ghosts Revealed is a nineteen-minute archival featurette that that is made up of cast and crew interviews that cover the story, the location work, the story and effects work. There’s nothing amazing in here but it’s nice to see it included. Another archival featurette, the fourteen-minute Ghost Files: A Haunted Houseful Of Poltergeist Profiles, lets Cyrus himself introduce the main ghosts that live in the basement of his house, it’s moderately amusing.

    Also on hand is a forty-three-minute selection of original Electronic Press Kit footage that is made up of a whole lot of cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage. Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a few TV spots, menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, Shout! Factory packages the first pressing of this release with a slipcover and also includes some reversible cover sleeve art featuring their newly created artwork on one side and the original theatrical poster art on the reverse.

    Thir13en Ghosts – The Final Word Review:

    For a film best described as tepid at best, it’s surprisingly how soulless it is for a movie with more than a dozen ghosts contained inside. Shout! Factory, to their credit, have done a nice job putting this package together for the film. The transfer could have been better but it’s hardly bad, and the audio is excellent as is the selection of extra features assembled for this release. Fans of the picture will appreciate the effort that’s gone into this one but Thir13en Ghosts just didn’t work for me at all.

    Click on the images below for full sized Thir13en Ghosts Blu-ray screen caps!