It is time again to open up the vaults! It is that lovely time when I go back and look at movies and video games of old that may have not received a fair review in its first run or they could be seen differently as they have aged over time. The movie on today’s menu: Thirteen Ghosts. Oh yes, the movie starring Tony Shahloub and Matthew Lilliard. For those of you following my site will know that I had some rather chipper things to say about it when I discussed redeemable horror movies of the 2000’s. Well, strangely enough, I notice that this is a movie that is typically panned by critics with a solid score of 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. So I am going to make a more formal statement of how underrated this movie was at the time of its release.
After the death of his estranged uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham), Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub) and his family travel to Cyrus’s strange glass house left to them in his will. While there they meet Cyrus’s old partner, Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lilliard) who hunted ghosts with Cyrus. Dennis, Arthur, and Arthur’s family quickly learn that the basement is filled with the 12 ghosts that Cyrus and Dennis captured with the purpose of gaining unlimited power. The machine starts up and Arthur’s kids are kidnapped. Arthur and company need to search through the house and find his children.
The Production is Top Notch
The one thing that we can all agree on in this movie is that the effects and production design are absolutely marvelous. The ghosts look absolutely terrifying and have excellent practical effects. The house looks absolutely terrifying, gorgeous, ominous, and mysterious all at once. The occulus design looks both terrifying and grandiose. Everything about this movie looks amazing and polished.
This movie was made on a $42 million dollar budget and it is hard to believe. Especially since movies like Gods of Egypt go well over $140 million and look substantially worse by comparison.
Surprisingly Well Acted by the Main Characters
While Rah Digga and Alec Roberts (who plays Bobby) give rather subpar performances and the lawyers who has a bit part in the movie is sleazy beyond believably, the remainder of the cast all give stellar performances. I am not typically a fan of Matthew Lilliard and Tony Shahloub is an actor I could live without, both of them give stellar performances in this movie. Lilliard comes across as a deranged but well meaning psychic and Shalhoub is a perfect well meaning father who has just lost a loved one. Overall, I absolutely love both of them in this movie.
Character Motivation is Left Unexplained
I am directing the majority of this inquiry to the piss poor plot point featuring the character Kalina (Embeth Davidtz). Kalina shows up halfway through the movie after showing up as a concerned occultist not pleased with Cyrus capturing and enslaving ghosts. Later on throughout the movie, it is revealed that Kalina is actually working for Cyrus. She apparently killed her old partner and is… in love with Cyrus? I have no clue. Either way, her betrayal and subsequent dealing with Cyrus leads to her death when Cyrus kills her by crushing her to death in his house.
Why she does this? I have absolutely no idea, a lot of her motivation does not make a lot of sense. Her presence seems to be there to just give the viewers some needed occult exposition, sloppily lie to Arthur, before dying, and calling it a day. The fact that she has dynamite doesn’t make any sense either. She says it is meant for them to blow up the machine and keep Cyrus from gaining all the power… But if she is working for him then there is no reason that she should have dynamite on her. It all seems to be a poor attempt at creating a shock value moment that simply does not work.
The Ending Credits and Soundtrack in General
I hate to say it but the soundtrack is bad… Just… Just absolutely awful. The music does not add to the movie. It takes away from it, it is loud, it is invasive, and it takes away from the more gorgeous aspects of the effects.
But the music that really takes the shit taco is the ending credits. Typically, with horror movies today, we have our fair share of crappy music playing during the ending credits. It tends to be a song from some metal band and not even the good kind of metal to boot. But there are exceptions and the credits during the end of the movie can send someone home with a feeling engendered by the movie, chaos, horror, etc.
For this movie… We end on a rap song by the woman who plays the nanny, Rah Digga and not only is it a bad song, but it completely clashes with the feel of the rest of the movie. While I understand that you put a singer in a movie, you want to feature their music… But man this is not the right way to do it. It is easily one of the worst aspects of this film.
This movie is not perfect, it certainly has its flaws. But that should not detract from the fact that this is a top rate movie. The production rate is stellar, it tells an excellent story, and the fear relies on the production design and dread of what could be instead of the jump scares that fester most of the modern horror scene.
Final Score 3.5/5
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