Wicked Wednesday: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s being late to the party.

For much of the last two decades, I had sworn off early 2000s horror movies. That means I’ve missed out on a lot of modern classics in the genre. But it’s not just the superficial things (most of these movies are really ugly), I find a lot of movies from this era really homophobic and sexist. Probably not more than any other decade before, but it’s just more glaring as these movies came out during my lifetime.

But I’ve been forcing myself to break my own rule. Hell, I watch loads of 90s horror now after avoiding that like the plague. Maybe the 2000s will be my next passion.

(Spoiler alert: probably not going to happen. Or at least it doesn’t start with this movie.)

Thir13en Ghosts (which I will be referring to from here on out as Thirteen Ghosts to save my eyes) is a remake of the 1960 William Castle movie, which I had apparently watched back in 2016. And while my write-up seems really positive, I don’t remember anything about it.

Like the original, the 2001 remake is about a man who inherits a mansion from his uncle. But that’s about where the similarities end (other than the glasses and titular ghosts, obviously).

Arthur is newly widowed after his wife died in a fire that destroyed his house. One morning, he, his two children and the nanny get news that he’s inherited a house from his estranged uncle Cyrus. The older man supposedly died while catching a ghost.

The fam pack up and go to the house. It’s a glass monstrosity that must be awful for privacy. Outside, they meet an ‘electrician’ who is really Cyrus’s psychic sidekick, Dennis, in disguise. He’s allowed into the house with the family and lawyer so he can pretend to do electrician things.

Dennis goes into the basement of the house with a pair of special glasses on. While there, he sees twelve angry ghosts ghosts in boxes. Ghosts he helped Cyrus trap. They’re all in little boxes, waiting to be unleashed.

Realising that Cyrus has dastardly things planned, he goes to warn Arthur’s family. The lawyer and Arthur bush off Dennis’s warnings. But when the lawyer sets off a trap that opens all the ghosts’ boxes. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

The house locks itself with everyone inside. Dennis tries to get the family together, but the adults soon realise that young Bobby is missing. And from there… there’s lots of running, flashing lights, ghosties and prepping for a fun ghost machine!

I won’t spoil any of the twists here, even if it is an ‘old’ film by this point. I don’t think the twists are very well done, but they do add some fun.

Much of my dislike of early 2000s films is that they’re awful to look at. This is a prime example of that. The flashing lights physically hurt to watch. Many people say that the house is the best part of this film. It’s certainly interesting, but…sorry. Really sorry. I HATE IT SO MUCH. WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO LOOK AT?

I love Tony Shaloub. I’m not just saying that because he’s a fellow north eastern Wisconsinite. He’s an incredible actor who is really charismatic on screen. But here I found him to be flat. I think in large part it’s because his character is as interesting as puddle water. Other than some voice over, we really don’t know (or care, frankly) about his dead wife. Fire? What fire? If you came late to the cinema because of the line for popcorn, you’d be screwed!

Other than Matthew Lillard, Rah Digga and F. Murray Abraham, who are allowed to be camp, the cast is awful. The children are horribly miscast here. How old is Shannon Elizabeth meant to be? She’s clearly nearly 30 in this, but I think we’re meant to think she’s 16 or something? It really doesn’t work. And boy oh boy is that child actor who plays Bobby obnoxious. He’s cut out of much of the second half, which helps things. If anything, he carries on the legacy of boys in horror movies with weird haircuts.

There’s lots of nostalgia for this movie. But for someone who’s joined the party two decades late, it’s difficult to see why. Points for Lillard because he’s always fun to watch, but I really found little to love it in this one. Do you love this movie? Tell me why! I’d love to know what I missed and if I should give it another chance.

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