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Warner Home Video presents
Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

Dennis: Ghosts. I'll do this the easy way. I used to hunt ghosts with your uncle Cyrus.
Arthur: Goats?
Dennis: Ghosts!

- Matthew Lillard, Tony Shalboub

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 23, 2002

Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth
Other Stars: Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham
Director: Steve Beck

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence/gore, nudity and some language
Run Time: 01h:30m:29s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 085392208326
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BAA- B+

DVD Review

Thir13en Ghosts is the cinematic equivalent of a carnival funhouse, and what it might lack in actual horror is more than made up with in spooky spirit (thirteen of them, to be exact). With a tip of the hat to B-movie king William Castle's 1960 production, this updated, revamp from director Steve Beck never tries to be anything more than a big, loud, flashy thrill ride, and as such succeeds quite amiably. The opening sequence sets the tone, and it is like a creepy variation on something out of Ghostbusters, involving ghosthunters, a foggy junkyard, a truck that spews blood and a maniacal, deadly ghost known as The Breaker. It is comically dark and violent, and effectively lays the groundwork for the fun to follow.

Widower Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub), still grieving over the loss of his wife in a tragic house fire six months earlier, discovers that he has inherited an unusual mansion from his late uncle, the mysterious Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham). Arthur, his children Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts), along with sassy housekeeper Maggie (Rah Digga) trek out to the mansion, along with Cyrus' slick lawyer Benjamin Moss (JR Bourne). Upon their arrival, the group is met by Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), who we learn in the film's gory opening is some type of paranormal psychic who can locate spirits, and who once worked for Cyrus Kriticos.

The mansion is a genuinely odd structure, made entirely of huge sliding glass panels etched with strange Latin symbols. It's a massive labyrinth of winding hallways, rotating floors and strange rooms, and is one of the more engaging and unusual set designs I've seen in any recent film; it is both wondrously claustrophobic and voyeuristic at the same time. The entire building is run by a grand series of massive gears and weird rotating mechanisms, but the real secret is that locked in the basement, unknown to Arthur and his family, are twelve very nasty ghosts looking to get out. It turns out that the glass panels are actually "ecto-bar glass" and the markings are "containment symbols" designed to keep the spooks in place, which naturally doesn't last for long.

Of course, the ghosts get out. Is that a surprise? Not really. They're a nasty and violent lot, and feature some eerie, surreal characters, including The Hammer (he has blacksmith spikes nailed into his skull), The Jackal (he's a lunatic with a metal cage on his head) and The Torso (he's, well, just a torso). Makeup effects vary, running the gamut from nightmarish to just plain rubbery to completely nude (and no, it's not Shannon Elizabeth), but the gore highpoint centers on a great sequence where a character gets sliced in two, longways.

Lillard snags all of the good comic dialogue as the smart ass psychic, and Shalhoub and Abraham step down a few steps from their Oscar®-caliber perches to deliver a pair of adequate genre performances. Shannon Elizabeth, pretty face that she is, once again proves that her topless scenes in American Pie may just have been, sadly, the pinnacle of her acting career.

Thir13en Ghosts features a lot of scenes with characters running frantically down long close hallways, narrowly evading the desperate clutches of assorted spirits. When Beck and screenwriter Neal Stevens finally reveal the real purpose behind Uncle Cyrus' puzzle-box mansion it becomes clear that the fate of the world clearly rests on the shoulders of Arthur Kriticos.

The thin story falls apart a bit near the climax, as if it finally collapsed inward on itself after bouncing along merrily during the breezy 90 minute runtime, but the ride was enjoyable enough that it really mattered little to me.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Wow! This is truly one gorgeous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that Warner Bros. has issued for Thir13en Ghosts. Everything falls together just perfectly here, from the extraordinarily sharp image detail to the deep blacks to the consistent brightness and contrast levels present here. Colors are rich and lifelike, as are the fleshtones. No flaws or imperfections to be found anywhere on this disc.

There is really nothing at all to complain about whatsoever in terms of the image transfer, and this is easily one of the best-looking discs to come along in quite some time.

Outstanding.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is an especially good one, very robust and full of surround cues that blend score elements as well as sound effects to create a very active mix. The opening junkyard sequence features some excellent rear channel effects that really draw the viewer in. Dialogue is mixed cleanly, and sounds exceptionally crisp. The bottom end doesn't match the quality of the overall mix, and comes across a little soft. A 2.0 track in dubbed Quebeçoise French is also included.

I'm sucker for an aggressive mix, and Warner Bros. has done a mighty fine job with this disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Sean Hargreaves, Steve Beck, Howard Berger
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video
Extras Review: The full-length, scene-specific commentary features production designer Sean Hargreaves, special makeup effects designer Howard Berger and director Steve Beck. My problem, right off the bat, is that I couldn't tell the difference between the very similar speaking voices of Beck and Berger, and at times I suspected that Beck's comments had been intercut at a later time. Regardless, the track is fairly serious, with 99% of the discussion centering on design and makeup issues; Hargreaves comments, especially on the creation and development of the mansion set, are genuinely interesting. It wasn't a boring a track, it's just that is was very workmanlike in its flow.

The Thir13en Ghost Revealed is a better-than-average extra (18m:40s) and features chatter with all of the cast and crew principles, with the segment divided into a brief discussion of William Castle, the makeup, the visual effects and the CG effects. Even with the happy talk actor interviews, this had a generous amount of information, and the segment of the CG house effects were nicely done.

The Ghost Files is a pretty hip addition, and consists of bios of each of the ghosts in the film. Narrated by F. Murray Abraham, the bios are combination of old photos and drawings, and give a brief background on how each particular ghost came to be. This is the type of clever bonus material that makes DVD extras so much fun.

The remaining extras include a William Castle bio (text), a music video from Tricky, subtitles (English, French, Spanish), a theatrical trailer, filmographies and 24 chapters.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Thir13en Ghosts is pure empty calorie entertainment, and it comes nicely packaged on a DVD with one of the sharpest image transfers I've seen in a long while. Director Steve Beck delivers more fun than horror with this visually smart spin on the old haunted house storyline.

Recommended.

 


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