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.

Film Review: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Release Date: August 15th, 2003
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Based on: characters created by Wes Craven, characters created by Victor Miller
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Ken Kirzinger, Katharine Isabelle, Zack Ward, Brendan Fletcher

New Line Cinema, Crystal Lake Entertainment, 97 Minutes

Review:

I have now reviewed all of the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street films, excluding remakes. I have finally gotten to the end of the ride, where the big main event that everyone always wanted to see, finally happened. The showdown of the immortals! Freddy vs. Jason!

For some reason, this film disappointed fans of both franchises. I’ve never really been sure why, other than complaints about the use of CGI having less of an effect than the practical effects of the 1980s used in Freddy’s dream sequences. Yeah, it does feel less organic visually but the spirit is still there and the emotional tone was perfect.

The plot is pretty well done, as it brings together both of these worlds and merges them into one thing. Freddy Krueger gets into Jason’s mind while he is wandering Hell and poses as his mother, telling Jason to go to Springwood to start killing the teenage population. If the teens live in fear, Freddy can manifest in their minds once again. Pretty good setup and it created an interesting scenario that saw Jason stalking teens in Freddy’s neighborhood.

I wasn’t a fan of Kane Hodder not being cast as Jason Voorhees. Ken Kirzinger did a solid job as Jason but the character was missing those Hodder mannerisms that became iconic over his four film run as the character.

Robert Englund was fantastic as Krueger, especially after a nine year hiatus following the more serious New Nightmare. This was Freddy back at his comedic and sinister best. And even though he only has one kill in this entire movie, the comedic effect of Jason beating him to the punch with kills was entertaining and added a cool dynamic to these horror icons’ relationship.

Monica Keena is fucking gorgeous in this movie and she was a good lead. She overacted in some scenes and screamed ridiculously too often but she was one of the better teenage characters out of any of these films. Jason Ritter was okay but it was cool seeing John Ritter’s kid get a shot in Hollywood. Kelly Rowland was atrocious as Kia, the nerd kid was boring and the rest of the supporting cast were ripoffs of popular actors of the time, most notably a poor man’s Jack Black and a horrible wannabe Jay from Jay & Silent Bob fame. Also, there was a heroic deputy that knew about Jason Voorhees. His character was a wasted opportunity where they could have brought back Tommy Jarvis from the fourth, fifth and sixth Friday the 13th films. It would’ve been cool to see Jason finally get his revenge on Tommy.

I don’t think that Ronny Yu was the best choice for director. He wasn’t bad but some of the action sequences were too Hong Kong and just felt weird and out of place. There were lots of shots where things would go into a strange slow motion pace with the visuals blurred and obscured – probably to hide things and keep the budget down. It wasn’t a style consistent with either film series and it became distracting.

As far as the Freddy vs. Jason battle, it happens twice in the film: once in the dream world and another in the real world. The ending is also open ended and ambiguous. You could argue that either monster won and in the end, they both survive anyway.

Unfortunately, there were no sequels after this for a joint film or solo films for either monster. Years later they both got remade with inferior films. It’d be nice to see them get a good reinvention in the future or to just pick up these films where Freddy vs. Jason left off. Although, Robert Englund says he will never play Freddy Krueger again, as he is a lot older than he was when he started in 1984.