13 Ghosts... To say I hated the movie would be going too far. However, even more upsetting to me than that everyday dysfunctional family or the redundant casting of Shannon Elizabeth as "hot" was the fact that when it came time for the supposed protagonist to jump into the machine and die a grisly death, he managed to finally attain a semblance of an intellect and save his life. Yes, the house was awesome. I loved looking at the neat writing all over the spiffy glass walls. Woot. But that only added to the overall sucking power when that... family started playing around in it. The most moving scene in the movie was when I realized I wasn't going to see the demon machine work.
And so I resigned myself to a negative view and got in my car to go home. I turned the key, and it stalled. I tried again, and the car mumbled something like, "fuck off; the batteries dead." Then, sitting in the street with my middle finger pointed at the approximate center of my steering wheel, I realized something: 13 Ghosts didn't suck; I just wasn't able to see its true value. Yeah, sure it had a drawn out plot, overused tension devices and wasn't even as scary as Harry Potter. True, I spent most of the movie fantasizing about someday turning into a ghost and getting to kill that cast. And sure, the movie sucked. BUT! There was another way to see it.
If one recalls the writing on the glass walls, which I thought was the good part, and how that writing was used to contain the ghosts, one might wonder, "just how did those crazy designs contain those rash and unbridled spirits of rage"? At least I did, but then I had time. It is often said that writing has meaning in the spirit world, and can set rules for ghosts. This is very similar to other magical systems, in that a word has power, and writing, an abstract concept, can take on physical meaning and presence. For example, one writes fire in a magical language, and the
cast member, campfire it was written on begins to burn. Similarly, WALL, or NO, written on a glass wall might keep ghosts from passing. This is because the word refers to an objective reality that all things must recognize. It doesn't matter if the child actor knows you wrote fire on him, he will still burn. This is very (well not very, but remember: the car was stalled) similar to a pre-Derrida concept of metaphysics. Everyone believed that there was one reality and that its laws dictated the working world. In the course of history, Nietzsche said, "God is dead!" and slowly, with the help of Altizer and Derrida, a new idea of metaphysics appeared, saying that meaning, and reality, is subjective to its viewer. Reality, not just beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. See: Deconstruction.
In the course of 13 Ghosts, the walls slowly fold up and disappear, releasing the ghosts and creating chaos. They no longer have to pay attention to the objective reality of the magic writing. They can run rampant; meaning has become subjective. This echoes the turn metaphysics took in the nineteenth century. Many people argue that to believe that there is no objective reality is to allow for the rampant chaos that the ghosts create. Without an objective reality, the world would fall apart, much like the house of 13 ghosts. Could this movie be a play on this theme? Me and my car agree; only the battery doesn't cooperate.