between the natural and supernatural has always had a fascination
from some scholars. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the
links between Heaven and Hell were studied and pondered in
art, religion, debate, and writing. In the classic Dante's
Inferno, a decent into Hell is documented and the imagery
transcends from the printed page to the mind in a gripping
and graphic fashion where readers can almost hear the screams
of the tortured souls and smell the brimstone.
modern age, films have become a large medium for the supernatural
as many of the great books of our time and past ages have
been adapted to the silver screen. Films such as the "Hellraiser"
and "Evil Dead" series as well as "Event Horizon"
have dealt with the passage of spirits and demons into our
realm and the chaos that they bring with them.
season is upon us, and with it comes new horror films to our
local video stores and new films to our cinemas in an effort
to generate big bucks by putting a scare into the audience.
The new film "13 Ghosts" is the latest film to arrive
in time for Halloween, and relies on the old formula of the
haunted house to drive the story and generate scares.
of the film revolves around Arthur (Tony Shalhoub), a widower
who is struggling to raise his family in the aftermath of
losing his wife to a house fire, and battling his inner turmoil
that he could not save his wife. Grief is not the only problem
facing Arthur, he is having financial problems and is growing
frustrated with the hand life has dealt him. His children
Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts), do their
best to help their father through his difficult time, but
Kathy longs for a larger home for them and Bobby has become
fascinated with reading crime scene reports and recording
the grisly details into his tape recorder much to the dismay
of their housekeeper Maggie (Rah Digga), who dispenses wisdom
with an attitude. The family fortunes take an unexpected turn
for the better when it is revealed that Arthur is to be the
sole heir to his late uncle Cyrus's estate. It seems that
Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham), was a brilliant investor and he
has left a very lavish home to Arthur and his family.
long, Arthur and his family arrive at the house and marvel
at the windfall that has fallen into their laps. The house
is a modern marvel of glass and moving parts and comes complete
with a centerpiece room that has moveable tiles spin and combine
archaic symbols at random intervals.
Arthur is preparing to sign the paperwork for the home, he
is met by a frantic young man named Rafkin (Matthew Lillard).
Rafkin explains that Arthur and his family are in grave danger
and must leave the house. Before Arthur can act on this advice,
the group becomes trapped in the house with no way out. It
seems that the basement holds twelve spirits and the house
was designed based on an ancient text to harness the spirits
to provide a portal between the realms, thus insuring absolute
power to those who control the portal.
this is of little interest to Arthur, as his only goal is
to get his family safely from the home, but his children have
gone missing, and Arthur is forced to venture amongst the
unleashed spirits to save his family.
at this point that the film starts to unravel as an interesting
premise quickly dissolves into the cast running around the
house at random trying to avoid one ghost after another. There
is little plot, and the tension that should be evident is
think that a person in a similar situation would have enough
insight to avoid the old horror film trap of splitting up
a group when in a hostile location. This was done on several
instances in the film to the loud groaning of the audience.
Worse yet, cast members vanish only to appear later with little
to no explanation of where they were, and there is very little
in the way of sympathy generated for the characters, as we
do not really care what happens to them.
have been an interesting premise became nothing more then
the a group of people in a house trying to avoid ghosts that
pop up now and then in an attempt to provide menace to the
characters. The makeup for the ghosts is not bad, but there
is a heavy sense of been there, seen that amongst the film.
It seemed to borrow heavily from "Hellraiser" and
"The House on Haunted Hill" as the houses, or the
mysterious puzzle cube are supposed to be a conduit of evil.
Instead, what we get is nothing more than a
of uninspired sequences from a cast that looks embarrassed
to be a part of this film and are far less lively and inspired
then the ghosts they are fleeing. One can only hope that this
film will take a clue from its spectral subject matter and
out of 5