13 Ghosts

If you want to a see a movie about a cool house made up of glass walls with Latin scribbled all over them, and strange gizmos closing doors and windows, then check out 13 Ghosts. If you want to see a scary ghost story, then check out The Exorcist or A Nightmare on Elm Street instead.

Loosely based upon the 1960 film of the same name (made originally by William Castle, who also did House on Haunted Hill, which was remade in 1999), the film chronicles a night of terror that Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) spends with his family in the house constructed by his rich and crazy Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham). Unknown to Arthur, the house is actually a device "designed by the devil and powered by the dead" containing 12 spirits representing the Black Zodiac who have been hunted and imprisoned by Cyrus. Having just passed away, Cyrus bequeaths the house to a penniless Arthur, but his intentions have to do more with gaining immense amounts of power by opening a gateway to Hell, rather than doing anyone a favour. (The 13th ghost is the key to opening Hell's Eye.)

The special effects and the mood of the film is extremely good, enough to distract from a pretty tepid story line. The set design is excellent, and ends up making Uncle Cyrus' house/contraption the real star of the film. The music is loud and jarring. The movie has its frightening moments, particularly in the split-second shots of the ghosts who can only be seen with special glasses, but overall it drags and pays too much attention to its characters (generally played by "name" actors who are totally unnecessary here).

13 Ghosts is not a bad Halloween film to watch--it'll scare you if you let it. But if you don't see it this week, I recommend giving it a miss until it comes out on video and you have an evening with nothing else to do.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org