Review: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

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“The Jackal is the Charlie Manson of ghosts. And if the Jackal is out, screw the kid. We gotta get out of this basement!”

Growing up, this was actually one of my favorite movies. It scared me to the point I slept in my parents floor on a pallet of sheets for a couple of days. The concept of having a glass house full of ghosts was not only intriguing, but also terrifying, especially for an eight year old. I recently went on a Sam Goody’s haul and came home with about fifteen new movies, most of which were favorites of mine when I was a kid, and a few new ones to spruce up the collection. I decided to introduce my best friend since third grade, and now roommate, who is a new horror movie lover to one of my childhood favorites. The results were pleasant.

This movie isn’t the best, I’ll be the first to admit it, but it is by far one of my favorites regardless. The story is decent, the acting is not bad, and as far as quality, for its time, I think it stands up to the competition. With that being said, it’s probably viewed as a B-grade movie at best. I will say, watching in 2001 in comparison to watching it in 2017 was such a major difference, but in my heart it still has a special place.

The premise of the film centers around ghost hunter Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) and his glass “ghost house”. The movie starts out with Cyrus trying to catch one of the many spirits he has locked away in his house alongside his crew and his psychic assistant Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard). Although the spirit is caught, during the process, Cyrus is killed. We then get to meet Cyrus’s nephew Arthur (Tony Shalhoub), his two children, Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts), and the nanny, Maggie (Rah Digga). We learn that Arthur’s wife perished in a house fire, leaving him financially unstable, that is until Cyrus’s estate lawyer comes to visit and tell them that he has inherited his uncle’s mansion and all of its items.

Since the family has been struggling with money, they decide to go visit the house, and move in. Upon arriving, there is an electrician outside working on the house. But what looks like just a normal guy doing his job is really Dennis, the psychic, trying to get in the house to figure out what Cyrus was really up to, and warn the family of what could lie in the hosue before they move in. Dennis ventures to the basement to “check the electricity” and while there notices the glass has Latin spells written on it, and when touching the walls he has flashes of each of the ghosts he helped capture with Cyrus. He learns they are all in the basement. Meanwhile Arthur is with Cyrus’s lawyer about to sign the paperwork, and the family decides to explore, not knowing what lies in the basement below them. Dennis barges in on Arthur and the lawyer to tell them what is happening, and the lawyer goes downstairs to make a call, really gathering cash left for him, while Dennis explains to Arthur the dangers of the house. The lawyer accidentally hits a control on a machine that allows the ghosts to break from their spell bound walls.

At this point, Arthur has heard enough and wants to take his family home, but they’ve all ventured off on their own, exploring what they believe will be their new home. Kathy finds a glamourous looking room and decides to check it and the bathroom out while Maggie and Bobby go together and find a pair of odd looking glasses, and then decide to play a game, which ends up with Bobby in the basement, wearing the glasses. The cool thing about the glasses is that they give you the ability to see the ghosts. Bobby seems many of the spirits, including one that looks and sounds like his mother. Bobby is knocked out and dragged away.

Meanwhile, everyone else is on a manhunt to find Bobby all while trying to survive the released spirits. We encounter most all of the spirits at least once, and some, such as the Jackal, Juggernaut, The Hammer, and The Angry Princess several times. We also meet The Withered Lover on several occasions. The ending of the movie is good, and I feel like it really closes up all the plots and brings everything together, I would tell you more but you know I love to avoid spoilers for everyone.

The ghost that terrified eight year old me is still pretty terrifying. The Jackal gave me nightmares for days, and while now it isn’t as scary as it was then, I can see why I wanted to be close to my parents when the lights went out. There’s something about the straight jacket, metal head cage wearing ghost of a mental patient that gives me the creeps to this day. The rest of the ghosts are fairly creepy as well, but that one is still the one that gets me.

One thing that the movie doesn’t do during its 90 minute run-time is explain the backstories to the ghosts, but never fear, the DVD version has F. Murray Abraham narrate the story behind each ghost in a special feature called Ghost Files. It’s interesting to say the least, and I recommend listening to it after you watch the movie. If you don’t have access to the DVD, wikipedia has a nice description of each of them as well.

This is one movie that I think could be excellent with a modern day remake. I don’t know if it would live up to the 2001 version of this movie in my eyes, but I can just imagine how frightening they could make the ghosts and it gets me really excited. The only complaint I have on this film is that there aren’t many good scares. A modernized take on this could fill all of that. Scarier ghosts, more scares, and an updated cast (not that I don’t love this cast, I think that they were all wonderful) could do fantastic. Imagine if someone like Jason Blum got his hands on it. It could be gold.

My thoughts are to give this oldie a try if you’ve never seen it. It’s definitely on my list of favorite movies!

Rating: 6 out of 10
Trailer: Thirteen Ghosts


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