Film Review: 13 Ghosts (1960)

Also known as: Thirteen Ghosts (German English title), 13 Fantasmas (Brazil, Mexico, Portugal)
Release Date: July, 1960
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robb White
Music by: Von Dexter
Cast: Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Margaret Hamilton, Donald Woods, Martin Milner, John van Dreelen

William Castle Productions, Columbia Pictures, 85 Minutes, 82 Minutes (black and white version)

Review:

“[making a birthday wish] I wish we owned our own house, and all our furniture that nobody could take away. [wind blows through the windows and blows out the candles, somebody knocks at the door]” – Buck Zorba

From memory, 13 Ghosts was a movie I wasn’t too incredibly fond of. I mean, I liked it. It just didn’t make much of an impact and I always thought it was kind of cheesy, even when I was a kid.

However, this is the first time I’ve seen the film in at least twenty years. I’ve got to say, I have more appreciation for it now and I enjoyed it quite a bit. That could also be due to recently revisiting the 2001 remake, which was a total turd.

This was just a lot of fun and for the subject matter, kind of wholesome. Even if there is a supernatural death at the end of the movie.

I thought that the cast was actually good and the kid wasn’t even that annoying, especially for a child actor circa 1960. You actually kind of feel for the kid when you know he is being taken advantage of by the villain of the story.

For the time, the special effects are really good and they work. I like that there is a bit of a comedic tone with a lot of the ghosts’ antics.

The thing with William Castle movies is that they were interactive experiences when seen in theaters. I think that the whole experience would have been pretty cool to be a part of. That being said, I think it makes the movies suffer a bit on their own but this one was still lighthearted, fun and fairly jovial.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other gimmicky William Castle horror movies.

Film Review: Thirteen Ghosts (2001)

Also known as: Thir13en Ghosts (stylized title), 13 Ghosts (alternative spelling), 13 Fantasmas (Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Venezuela)
Release Date: October 23rd, 2001 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Steve Beck
Written by: Neal Marshall Stevens, Richard D’Ovidio, Robb White
Based on: 13 Ghosts by Robb White, William Castle
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham, Ken Kirzinger

Dark Castle Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros., 91 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, Glass Family Robinson, you’re wasting your breath!” – Dennis Rafkin

I know I’ve seen this movie or at least most of it. I’m not sure if I ever saw it in its entirety but I also don’t know if that even matters, as it’s kind of a disjointed mess that relies more on cool visuals than its plot and characters.

Ultimately, this movie is a massively wasted opportunity. It establishes a really cool mythos with its ghosts, each having a unique story and visual look. However, it kind of just gives you a quick rundown of the ghosts and expects you to retain that without giving you much more. Plus, half of the info dump is easy to miss, as it is told at a rapid pace with disorienting quick edits that overload your brain preventing you from sponging up the information.

Now the film looks great from the ghosts, the really cool, opulent ghost house and because Shannon Elizabeth is in it. However, all the window dressing is mostly destroyed by the constant strobe light effects, atrocious editing and even more atrocious pacing. This thing is made to look like an industrial music video from the late ’90s but music videos are only four minutes, not ninety minutes. Essentially, this entire film assaults and overloads the senses from start to finish and if you can get through it without multiple seizures, you deserve a trophy.

Coming off of the 1999 House On Haunted Hill remake, I thought that this could be equally good or surpass it. This is made by the same studio and it is also a remake of another William Castle movie just like Haunted Hill was. I think the mistake may have come from this not utilizing the same creative team.

While this movie mimics the visual style and effects of the previous movie, it takes it so far over the top that it wrecks the whole picture.

It also doesn’t help that other than Shannon Elizabeth, there isn’t a likable character in the entire film. And if I’m being honest, once you get midway through the movie, Shannon Elizabeth is barely in this thing, as she’s held captive off screen.

Instead, we’re treated to Rah Digga from Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad and Matthew Lillard yelling at each other with Tony Shalhoub a.k.a. Monk jumping in every few scenes. Then we have F. Murray Abraham and his weird domestic terrorist lover arguing over nonsense while dumping more info so fast that it’s like watching two people in a fill-the-bowl diarrhea contest.

This entire movie is a good primer on how not to make a horror movie. Also, this may have been where the horror genre really went off the rails, as the ’00s became a cesspool of shit for horror fans that weren’t thirteen year-old girls obsessed with putting sparkle graphics all over their MySpace profiles.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Dark Castle remakes of classic horror films, as well as other late ’90s and early ’00s ghost movies.