A by-the-numbers haunted house movie, albeit one with some neat twists, a couple of good performances and impressive design work, Thirteen Ghosts
is a remake of the 1960 original by exploitation superstar William Castle. When ghost-hunter Cyrus (F Murray Abraham) dies his quietly decent widower nephew Arthur (Tony Shaloub) inherits his house. With almost infinite predictability, he, his teenage daughter (Shannon Elizabeth) and young son, as well as a rival ghost-hunter and Cyrus' untrustworthy tame psychic (Mathew Lillard), are trapped in the house, which is a glass labyrinth of sliding panels and shifting staircases. As the woman ghost-hunter Kalina helpfully explains, the house is "a machine designed by the devil and powered by the dead"--specifically by 12 ghosts, most of them murderously malevolent.
Shaloub and Lillard manage to make us care about this farrago and Abraham lends his few scenes his usual malignant authority, but the real star is the inventively designed house itself and the outrageous horror-comic makeup of the ghosts. This is a knowingly trashy film enjoyable on its own level.
On the DVD: Thirteen Ghosts comes with a short textual explanation of who Castle was and why he should get this sort of homage, a self-congratulatory making-of documentary and filmographies for cast and crew, as well as odd short featurettes explaining the imagined back-story for each of the ghosts. The disc has Dolby sound and is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio.--Roz Kaveney