Director: Steve Beck
Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Shannon Elizabeth, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Alec Roberts, Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham
Screenplay: Neal Marshall Stevens, Richard D’Ovidio
91 mins. Rated R for horror violence/gore, nudity, and some language.
Dark Castle Entertainment was formed in 1999 by the legendary producers Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, and Gilbert Adler. It’s initial inception began with the goal of remaking William Castles’ horror films from the 1950s and 1960s. It only made two such remakes before the idea shifted to original films and non-Castle remakes. This is the second William Castle remake. Thir13en Ghosts.
Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub, TV’s Monk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) has just inherited a large estate from his recently dead Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham, TV’s Homeland, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but the home, a gargantuan glass house with strange and unusual writing along the walls, is already occupied with twelve terrifying spirits, ghosts of those who have died under painful and unresolved circumstances. As Arthur and his family attempt to navigate the labyrinthine home, he is aided by Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard, TV’s The Bridge, Scooby-Doo), a psychic who assisted Cyrus in hunting down the twelve ghosts. Cyrus’ legend speaks of a thirteenth ghost that Rafkin is unaware of, and now, the house is taking over and the puzzle is waiting to be solved.
Thir13en Ghosts has one absolutely fatal flaw. The film just isn’t all that scary. The mythology is interesting. The production design is crazy but effective and unique. The film is unforgettable for the atmosphere, but it just isn’t scary. Not at all.
The performances are fine from Shalhoub and Abraham, and Lillard is memorable. The film does hold a distinction for being the first American wide-release film sporting three Arab-Americans as the leads, which is nice. Director Steve Beck (Ghost Ship) is serviceable, and I loved learning more about the different ghosts. I think there is a lot of story to tell here, but the audience never got to see.
I love when remakes take a different path than the original, and Thir13en Ghosts is definitely more ambitious than most remakes, but audiences need to be scared at a scary movie, and Thir13en Ghosts is just more interesting than it is engaging or exciting. Genre fans can get away if the movie is cool but not exactly scary, but general audiences need more than that.
-Kyle A. Goethe