From the same people who brought you the remake of William Castle's The House on Haunted Hill comes another Castle (via the Dark Castle production company) remake, 13 Ghosts (or Thir13en Ghosts as an alternate spelling). The remake for the year 2001 is directed by Steve Beck and produced a consortium including Joel Silver, Dan Cracchiolo, Gil Adler and Robert Zemeckis (a lot of the same characters from THOHH).

Since, at the time of this writing, the film in still very new, I won't give away any plot details except that the story is significantly different from the 1960 original so as to be it's own film. Even though the remake doesn't have a "gimmick" like Bill Castle was famous for, now the 21st century where (hopefully) we don't have to rely on them.. too much.

I went and saw this on the day after opening, on October 26, knowing full well that it was going to be a sucky, sucky remake. Popcorn buttered and soft-drink slurping, I waited for the film to start without a doubt that it would be an awful pile.

It was not.

Okay, so it's not The Matrix caliber, but it's got Matthew Lillard in it, so that automatically makes it a cut above. The set where most of the story is told (one of the main characters' houses) is just awesome to look at. While the effect themselves aren't too scary along, they are coupled with some really great cinematography and sharp cut scenes that will make you jump, along with some of the ghosts which are just plain disturbing.

*** possible spoilers ahead ***

One of my favorite aspect of this movie wasn't anything to do with the effects though. It was that expored both science and magic in regard to the ghosts unlike so many films which are either one or the other -- 13 Ghosts showed them as two sides of the same coin.

I'm a nitpicker and I couldn't find too much wrong with this film (no wristwatches on cavemen as it were), though I was sort of annoyed at the nanny/housekeeper portrayal in what I felt was a mid-1960's cliche style. I was also annoyed that Matthew Lillards' character was killed off, but I felt better about that when he comes back and helps "save the day".

As for wants, I wanted this film to be longer. I wanted to know more about some of the more eccentric characters and I would have liked the details of "the machine" to be gone into with more depth, along with the ghosts themselves -- e.g. their individual significance and motivations, etc.

All in all I have to give 13 Ghosts 47 out of a possible 65 Buick Hubcaps. I would have given it 48 but my popcorn had too much salt on it.

"Ah! I hate that! They wait till you've got your face right up against the glass and then they give you a big old BOO!" -- Rafkin (Matthew Lillard)

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.

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