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Thirteen Ghosts (DVD)

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6 Reviews

Genre: Horror / Theatrical Release: 2001 / Director: Steve Beck / Actors: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz ... / DVD released 05 September, 2006 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Dubbed, PAL, Widescreen

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    6 Reviews
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      01.10.2012 09:25
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      a terrible film, but somehow I still find it enjoyable

      ===FILM ONLY REVIEW===

      Thirteen Ghosts is a film that I've seen many times over thanks to various airings on TV, and I noticed recently that it was being promoted as available to stream for free as part of my lovefilm.com subscription. I've already started on a horror kick in anticipation of Hallowe'en, so I decided to give it yet another viewing. If you don't have a lovefilm account (why not?!) then the DVD is currently available on www.amazon.co.uk at the price of £4.99.

      ===DETAILS===

      Released: 2001
      Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes
      Directed by: Steve Beck
      Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Shannon Elizabeth, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Tony Shalhoub, Alec Roberts, Kathryn Anderson, J.R. Bourne, Rah Digga
      Certificate rating: 15
      Tagline: Terror has multiplied
      Description: When Cyrus Kriticos, a very rich collector of unique things dies, he leaves it all to his nephew and his family. All including his house, his fortune, and his malicious collection of ghosts! (taken from imdb.com)

      ===MY THOUGHTS===

      Thirteen Ghosts tries very hard to impress with it's visual techniques, and this is apparent even from looking at the cover of the DVD and promotional materials. Playing up to trends at the time of release, it was actually given the stylised name of Thir13n Ghosts which I personally find rather annoying. The cover art features a photo mosaic which looks quite effective and the screaming face gives the impression that the movie will be full of scares...

      Thirteen Ghosts introduces us to the Kriticos family, who have recently suffered some devastating events which has caused the death of their mother and the loss of their family home. They are all on edge with each other and constantly bickering, struggling to make ends meet, yet somehow still able to afford a nanny to look after the two kids (one of whom being Shannon Elizabeth, who is clearly too old to be playing the daddy's little girl role they have tried to place her in here). Kooky old Uncle Cyrus has been off doing some weird and wonderful things that make precious little sense as we view the opening scenes with absolutely no introduction or explanation to his behaviour. He meets with an untimely death and here begins the stereotypical haunted house story. The main problem that I have with this film is that the plot is not presented clearly to the viewer. I'm all for a bit of mystery and suspense to keep me guessing, but when things are happening that need explanation to understand the story and none is given then it is pretty frustrating to watch. There are several "gear changes" where new plot developments are brought in, but these are handled abruptly with no sense of cohesiveness or natural flow from scene to scene. The story comes across as being jumbled due to snippets of back story being shown here and there, but appearing too late for me to actually care.

      Another massive downer to the film is that the dialogue and acting is bad. Really bad. It is cringe-worthy and cheesy at all levels and there was not one single character that I felt gave a good performance. This meant that I couldn't form any emotional connection to the characters and was essentially just waiting (and hoping!) for them all to die. As the title suggests there are 13 ghosts doing the haunting of this unusual house, and I would have liked to see more time spent on showing the different ghosts and learning more about their circumstances and how they came to be chosen to play their part in this set-up. The ghosts all look great and the make-up effects are really neat. I like that it's all done by hand and there is not much CGI at all in the actual appearance of the ghosts. Each one appears as a unique character and this is used to good effect when the living characters are being haunted.

      The main star of Thirteen Ghosts has to be the actual haunted house itself. The set design is stunning and a lot of effort has been used when creating everything to look a certain way. The house is made almost entirely of huge glass walls and corridors that run on a clockwork type system that moves different sections of the house around to form new areas. This is the most atmospheric part of the film, with the areas of the house constantly changing you can feel disorientated and this builds a bit of tension when the family are separated and then have to escape from the ghosts that are chasing them. I also really enjoyed the sounds effects used, as the distorted whispers of other-worldly creatures calling out work well to give a bit of a creepy feeling.

      If you are a fan of horror movies then you will probably be able to guess all the shock moments and see what is going to happen next without even thinking about it, as there was not really anything original in the script. The ghosts were not scary at all and I did not get any feeling of horror any time that I've watched the film. Even though the special effects are well executed, there is still something in the filming or production that was left lacking and there were no moments of fear or panic when something bad was about to happen. This could of course be more to do with the bad acting, because I really couldn't bring myself to give a toss about whether the family survived or not. They are so stereotyped that it makes me cringe, with the black nanny unfortunately coming off the worst and being used for predictable cheap "laughs" with her "sassy" attitude. There is also a favourite horror movie exploitation moment, when the daughter gets attacked and - oops! - her top is ripped so her cleavage is hanging out for all the living and the dead to see.

      What I've said so far is all rather negative, but for some reason unknown even to myself, I do enjoy watching this film. Despite everything it is still fun to watch and there are some enjoyable moments. Every time I see the house coming to life I find it just as exciting and enchanting as when I first witnessed it, and that is something that really stands out against everything else in the whole film.

      ===SUMMARY===

      Overall this is a shockingly bad horror film in that its storyline is jumbled and cliched. I don't like or care about any of the characters and I would have preferred to have a bit more back story to the individual ghosts and the functionality of the house rather than the sad story of the Kriticos' broken down family life. Even so, there is still something about this film that compels me to watch it every time I see it on TV, or as in this case, via my Lovefilm app on Xbox Live. It's beautifully presented with a stunning set that really captured my imagination, but the dire storytelling and dull as dishwater characters lets it down. It's so low on actual scares that I would probably recommend it as being the sort of thing to watch on a family movie night were it not for one particularly graphic scene of violence and some gratuitous boob-age. Worth a watch for a bit of light entertainment, but lower your expectations before the titles start rolling, otherwise you'll be disappointed. I would have given it 2.5 stars, but opted for the hard line and gave 2, as it really doesn't deserve the extra .5 to take it up to 3.

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      • More +
        02.02.2011 23:58

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        average horror film, not as good as becks other film ghost ship but not far off

        Steve Beck directed this horror film, and then the year after made Ghost ship (which if you see my review I think is actually better) so I think he used this film as a kindve lessons learnt..as it aint that good

        Synopsis: Arthur (Tony Shalboub, seen in TV`s Monk and as tech sargent chen in the hilarious Galaxy quest) is a widower with two children. One day a top class lawyer turns up at his door Mr Moss, played by JR Bourne (who is fairly unremarkable, until his last scene and that wasnt realy down to his acting ability) who tells the poor arthur that his eccentric and rich uncle cyrus has died and willed him a house.

        But what arthur doesnt know at this point is the nasty old cyrus was a rich bugger who had a pasion for the undead and had hired a really annoying pyschic Dennis Rafkin (played annoyingly by mathew linnard) as the man to help capture the mystical 13 ghosts, who whe put together could open a doorway to hell. So basically hes a little nutty.

        So athur takes off with his family, the carer and the lawyer in tow to this new house. It a pretty good concept to actually make the house a tomb for ghosts in itself, trying to keep them all in rather then most horror stories where the ghosts want to stay in the house.

        The CGI in this film is pretty good, especially some of the more grissly death scenes like the lawyer getting it by two glass doors, I think Beck likes the whole chop people clean in half things as he does it on ghost ship too. The soundtrack is unremarkable and the plotline is pretty good, there a nice twist at the end with uncle cyrus, and for the 15 year old boys there shannon elizabeth as the daughter who just HAS to take a shower in a house made of glass. I also like the whole psecial ghost glasses ting as that provides many of the jumpier scenes.

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        19.03.2010 14:55
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        A definite must see for horror fans

        Thirteen Ghosts is a horror remake released in 2001. I have quite a few negative reviews on here about this film and I have to say I am quite suprised.

        The basic plot is of an eccentric man who collects ghosts using an offbeat psychic as an aid. He visits places where murder or violence has occured because of one of the thirteen ghosts.

        Each has a special attribute and each is more ghastly than the last. It is originally unknown to the audience at first why he collects them and is left later on in a twist element.

        As this is happening a man with children becomes widowed as his wife dies in a house fire. The family are strugling financially and emotionally, so when they hear of a mysterious uncle who has died and left an expensive mansion to them they jump at the chance thats when the horror begins...

        The film I think is very well carried out, the design of the ghosts are very disturbing which adds to the horror, there is a lot of suspense and tension and some truly terrifying elements. Granted it is not the best horror film out there but it is a real descent one. The cast support this film well and the twists keep you guessing till the end.

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          30.12.2008 21:54

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          Another ghost story

          A family of father, daughter and son moved in to a new big house which the father inherit from the late uncle. It is indeed a weird house. Soon after they moved to the house, they realized that something weird happened, in supernatural way.
          People came to the house and get trapped together in the house of maze the crazy scientist has made. Ghost are coming from place to place trapped in some place and the father had to find the way out to be able to save the family from the death.
          Well, I don't think the movie was good enough for a horror movie. i should admit that the setting was very nice though. The glass house, the maze inside the house and the idea of mazes and labyrinth was very interesting.
          I didn't feel scared or something when I watched this movie, but this is something that should be watched by the family members because you would see something touching in this movie regarding to the family stuffs.
          I might probably recommend this movie to the horror movie beginner. Something less scary, average frequency of shock teraphy and adequate story in the movie would be good enough to be watched.

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          16.03.2008 15:02
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          I really wish the ghosts would have been invisible without the glasses for me too.

          There are times when I really wonder whether it is fruitful to open the TV at all. In the end, unless you have some reassurance of the value (entertainment or otherwise) of the programmes that are on, there usually doesn't seem to be really anything of interest coming out at almost any given time. These were the thoughts I had when I chanced to watch a late night film by the name of Thirteen Ghosts, another sort of remake of an older film, this one from 1960 (a reimagining I believe this sort is called). What resulted in this little endeavour of mine was the most unbelievable hour and a half of my life wasted on something so utterly dreadful that I really wonder what the heck was going on in the minds of its creators. Made in 2001 and directed by Steve Beck, the story is quite simple really. A down-on-their-luck family, trying to come to terms with the devastation of a fire and death of the wife of a grounded family man, inherits a peculiar house from their recently deceased adventurer uncle. After going to the house and ogling about how fantastically imaginative and great the new house is, they soon find themselves trapped in there, while a group of vicious ghosts captured in the house start to hunt them down, all of this as a means of opening a portal to hell or something. And the catch is that the only way you can actually see them is through these special goggles, a hard thing to endure when they try to bash your head in and you don't have any idea where they are otherwise.

          Now, I have seen bad movies in my life, but sometimes it is hard to really find a movie that fails so utterly in every single one of the film's elements. Starring Tony Shalhoub as Arthur Kriticos, his portrayal of an average father of a couple of snotty kids is an adequate performance, but whether I was supposed to get excited about his performance and root for him as the predictable hero of the film was really not something I would have bothered to do. But compared to the other characters in the film, his could almost be termed as the saving grace of an otherwise poor cast of cliché characters. Let's take a look what other people we have to endure while watching the film, shall we? There's the utterly bonkers Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) who goes on providing one neurotic comedy moment after another and in the process takes away any sense of dread you might have had in the film. Then there's the two kids, Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth), a strange mix of stubborn and caring teenage girl and her brother Bobby (Alec Roberts) who is hands down one of the most irritating characters I've come across in quite some time, only interested in talking of macabre subjects and busy doing everything his father tells him not to. Then there's the token black actress, the obnoxious babysitter Maggie played by Rah Digga who provides all the standard jokes you can expect black actors in these sort of films always make for some reason (even as far as uttering the most cliché-type joke as the last lines of the movie). Finally there's a ghosthunter-type woman (Embeth Davidtz) who gives the low-down on what is going on, a smarmy lawyer who is disposed quite quickly and, surprisingly, F. Murray Abraham as Arthur's uncle Cyrus somehow stuck in a film he clearly unaware of what he was signing himself into.

          So, the cast is absolutely horrendous, and if there is one thing any movie really should do is make me care about the characters enough so that I'd be fearing for their safety. But these people just made me so indifferent that if all of them had been killed during the film, I would have been very happy still. Now, of course, this being a 2001 remake, you can expect that a lot more emphasis is made on the visual aspects and admittedly the house does look quite interesting with all the walls basically being made of glass with little romanticist decorations here and there with spells inscribed everywhere. But that's about as far as we can go in terms of striking visual flair. The ghosts of course are the thing we are expected to be scared about here, right? Well, if hokum looking computerised boogies are what makes you shiver, then I guess you are easily frightened (the ghosts incidentally are apparently real people, which doubles the irony that they don't look real at all). To me none of the ghosts, from the kid with an arrow through his head or the mother with the weird fat kid with puke on his chin, to the knife-wielding naked lady, the screamer with a cubicle on her head and the baseball-swinging grumpus from a hardware store were simply not scary at all. If the main attraction of a horror movie is the ghosts, the fact that they looked so disingenuously non-frightening is a huge failing. And apparently the makers knew this too since they did the best they could to show only quick flashes of these monstrosities through MTV-style lightning editing and flashes of light. Yeah, that gimmicky style didn't really help I'm afraid...

          Not to mention, between all of these attempts at making the ghosts scary by doing silly quick edits and shaky camera movements, in the middle of the film there is an attempt at pushing in a hugely dramatic and serious moment when the ghostbuster goes on to explain with an air of huge gravitas about why the house has been created and why these sort of ghosts have been selected to be there. It would be just fine and dandy if it weren't for the fact that the previous half-hour of the film had already made me so utterly bored and wishful for all the characters to just drop dead that the sudden shift of trying to make a huge, dramatic, scary moment of biblical proportions to somehow make me care enough for the outcome of the movie, it unfortunately failed utterly and completely. And the only reason why I stuck with the movie to the bitter end was to just see how bad it would still get. And, surprise, it did. The ending was simply stupid and I saw it coming a mile away. And when you take into consideration that I had already seen the original film a few times, the fact that the original with its hokey special effects and pretty 1950s style of "beware! The ghosts are right behind you! EEEEK!" marketing tactics that film must have sported in its time, was actually a hell of a lot more scary and convincing than this utter tripe. Even the ghosts were more spooky. It just goes to show how swankier SFX are not going to make a better film and with all these remakes also shows the serious lack of ideas of the filmmakers to not even pull off a re-imagining better to beat a cheap film made in 1960. Guess my justification in not opening the TV set that often anymore is well validated when forced to face this sort of mince. Crapola in a tube.

          © berlioz, 2008

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            07.10.2007 08:54
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            2001 massacre - of a 1960s classic

            Cyrus Kriticos has a passion for collecting something rather unusual – ghosts. Aided by a young psychic, Kriticos carefully seeks out the restful spirits in the place that they died, where he captures them in a specially designed cell, before returning them to a bizarre spectral collection chamber in his enormous mansion. Whilst collecting the twelfth ghost for his collection, Cyrus is killed and his entire estate is subsequently inherited by his nephew.

            When Cyrus’s nephew Arthur originally visits the house with his children and nanny, the scale and beauty of its design immediately transfix the group. All the walls are fabricated from glass, with curious Latin inscriptions, and all the rooms of the house are furnished to a supremely high standard. The house holds all of the items collected by Cyrus during his life, and Arthur can scarcely believe his luck.

            But there is more to this house than meets the eye. Unbeknown to Arthur and his family, the basement of the house conceals a dark secret; the collection of ghosts accumulated by Cyrus during his life. Whilst Arthur’s family explores the strange house, Cyrus’s solicitor collects his retainer from one of the basement rooms and unwittingly activates a mechanism within the house that puts the whole family in danger. It transpires that the house is in actual fact one giant machine and once the machine has kicked in, nothing can stop the house from releasing its ghostly prisoners one by one. As Arthur and his family gradually encounter the terrible denizens of the house, they are reliant on the support of a psychic and a spiritualist to keep them alive but who will be the thirteenth ghost?

            2001's The Thirteen Ghosts is a largely very loyal remake of a cult horror film first screened in 1960. In places, it is very reminiscent of another remake, House on Haunted Hill, which should come as no real surprise as the same man, Robb White, wrote both films. There are certain key similarities between the two films; ghosts, haunted houses, eccentric characters and unwitting victims who become imprisoned in the houses. The other similarity, of course, is an unwelcome re-imagining of a much-loved classic. Thirteen Ghosts is quite an unusual film, but not entirely successful with it.

            The main concept of both the original and the remake is that the family is unable to see their spectral guests without the aid of specially designed glasses, rather like 3-D glasses. This is an entertaining premise, as it provides plenty of opportunities for spooky, jumpy moments as the various family members switch from wearing glasses to not and likewise being able and not able to see the inhabitants of the basement. Where this works particularly well is in the way in which the film plays on the idea that there are ghosts all around us, and that we cannot see them. Without the glasses, the house looks normal, and very appealing to Arthur and his family. By donning their spectacles, the family is opened up to a whole new environment. This is made more effective by the fact that the family members are still susceptible to attacks from the ghosts regardless of whether they are wearing glasses or not, so one of them may be physically attacked, without the others being able to see the assailant. It’s all very creepy, and with the touches of modern special effects, it is all very convincing too.

            It transpires that each of the ghosts that has been imprisoned by Cyrus has been very carefully selected as part of a greater plan, but this is one of the least successful ideas in the film and the plot device is never properly considered. Each of the ghosts is very different, having been killed in a very different way, but although we get some idea of how the person died, we really don’t learn enough about the individual ghosts. The twelve spectres are all suitably ghoulish, most notably a character called The Jackal, who was a notorious killer and died horrifically with a cage around his head. Other ghosts are never really explained; there is a child who appears to have been murdered with an arrow through his head, but all of the characters seemed particularly frightened of this ghost in particular and we were never really told why. There was also something very contrived about the whole arrangement. The specifications for the ghosts were taken from an old book of spells, but the twelve ghosts selected were all far too conveniently identical to their literary counterpart. I could never quite believe that Cyrus was lucky enough to find the exact twelve ghosts that he required for his plan. Visually, the ghosts are extremely effective though; grisly apparitions of violent deaths in every shape and size imaginable.

            As a horror film, Thirteen Ghosts is only partly successful. At the outset, there is quite a lot of gore and nastiness – the 15 certificate is quite a surprise. (There is a particularly satisfying sequence involving a lawyer and a pair of glass doors.) However, once events moved to the house there was less violence and the film concentrated more on the mystery and intrigue of the collection of ghosts. Once the action moves to the house, it's difficult to see how the terror can last as the family is limited in number and diversity. Although there are some significant twists in the plot, once events in the house take off, the writer seems to have taken very few chances and there are a lot of missed opportunities. Somehow, the audience quickly becomes familiar with the ghosts and they therefore soon lose much of their menace. Worse still, the film ultimately descends into Jurassic Park territory, with plenty of thrills and spills, but no absolutely no balls whatsoever.

            One of the film’s greatest assets is the set piece used for Cyrus’s mansion. The building really is quite magnificent and you certainly share the awe of the characters as they wander round exploring. By having all the rooms fabricated from glass, the director has suggested that it is easy to see everything, when of course the glass actually reveals nothing. There is also something inherently sinister about a prison, where all the cells are made of glass and you can see the inmates, albeit spectral ones in this case.

            It is certainly the ghosts who steal the show in this film, as the other (human) characters are far less appealing. The psychic (Matthew Lillard) is just irritating. Lillard is mouthy, and generally obnoxious, with a constant barrage of rapid dialogue and unconvincingly young. Cyrus Kriticos is portrayed in a typically Gothic fashion, complete with cloak, cane and dark pointy beard. The only likeable character is the nanny, Maggie, who has some good lines and provides a few much-needed comedy moments.

            Thirteen Ghosts is fast-paced, visually impressive and sometimes spooky; but it's not frightening enough. This is an exercise in wasted opportunities, where a director relies solely on special effects and pays no attention to atmosphere or intrigue. It's enjoyable enough, but fans of the original will largely turn in their graves.

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          • Product Details

            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