PLEASE NOTE: “As an Amazon Associate, [Need Coffee] earns from qualifying purchases." You know we make money from Amazon links,
and I know you know this, but they make us say it anyway. More info, click here.

Thirteen Ghosts (2001) – DVD Review



Written by: Richard D’Ovidio & Neal Marshall Stevens, based on a story by Robb White
Directed by: Steve Beck
Starring: Tony Shaloub, Matthew Lillard, F. Murray Abraham, Embeth Davidtz, Shannon Elizabeth


  • Running audio commentary by director Beck, production designer Sean Hargreaves, and make-up supervisor Howard Berger
  • “Thirteen Ghosts Revealed” making-of featurette
  • “Ghost Files” revealing backstory for the title characters
  • Music video for Tricky’s “Excess”, a song from the film
  • Theatrical trailers

Released by: Warner Home Video
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Avoid It.

[ad#longpost]Cyrus (Abraham) is a megalomaniac who collects ghosts. He does this with the aid of his trusty sensitive/psychic, Dennis (Lillard). However, his latest acquisition seems to have gotten his arse killed. As a result, his vast wealth and his cool house (which happens to be made of glass and completely see-through) have passed to his nephew, the hapless Arthur (Shaloub). Arthur needed a hand up, seeing as how he had recently lost his wife (Kathryn Anderson) and most of his worldly goods to a house fire, not to mention having been somehow suckered into hiring the most inept babysitter (Rah Digga) on the planet. However, there’s more to the house than meets the eye…and Cyrus isn’t through quite yet. Moohoohahaha.

Wow. Now this is a bad movie. You have to wonder what blackmail material the filmmakers had on actors like Davidtz and Shaloub, who are above this sort of thing. Abraham we didn’t wonder about–we’ve seen Noah’s Ark, thanks. Shannon Elizabeth is there to draw in young males from the trailer, and that’s about it. And Rah Digga is there to annoy the living hell out of everyone breathing. About the only person who escapes without tremendous vitriol aimed in their direction is Lillard, who actually manages to make his character seem like someone we could moderately care about, unlike everyone else, who are simply too stupid to live.

Matthew Lillard, expressing my opinion about the film as a whole.

While we’re talking about things that annoy, how about the script, which has some really lovely burning plot contradictions. Puzzling over them is about the only thing that can keep you awake, what with brilliant jokes about how Digga’s character doesn’t do windows. Or how the family shouldn’t throw stones. Ho ho. They’re in a glass house, get it? Chuckle chuckle. As for the magic spectacles that let the characters see the ghosts, we learn in the features where that idea originated (the audience needed 3-D specs for the 1960 original), but as cool a jumping point as that might have been–it went nowhere. The scariness of the ghosts, as funky as they might look, is simply the fact that they appear and disappear at will in a quick Fincher rip-off fashion. Ooooo, scary. And these ghosts, as menacing and evil as they are…they’re frightened by flares? And as stupid as that sounds, if you knew that to be the case, wouldn’t you stop by Sam’s Wholesale Club for a big-ass box of them before you set foot in a haunted house? All of that in tandem with the terrible “love is all you need” idea of a climax, and you’ll be like Shaloub’s character and moaning, “Why? In God’s name, why?”

Enough about the crap. The disc does redeem itself where its content cannot. The commentary from Beck, production designer Hargreaves and make-up supervisoer Berger is actually interesting. We get to hear a lot of good technical behind-the-scenes info, much more than we have gotten from some commentaries on better films, in fact. We also get a great deal of insight into the difficulties with filming in a glass house–a set so cool it almost garnered the film a half-a-cup until the dialogue just became too much to bear.

Making-up the Juggernaut

The making-of featurette is good, actually. It goes into the make-up treatment of the titular characters and actually shows time-lapse of getting The Juggernaut character (one of the coolest looking of the bunch) in and out of costume. Probably the most interesting is the “Ghost Files” section of the disc, where with narrations by Abraham in character, you get little one minute or so “profiles” of the ghosts, complete with snippets of new footage, illustrations and disturbed montages. Any of the stories related in one minute in these “Ghost Files” profiles would have been hellaciously more interesting than the film itself. Finally, the Tricky video, albeit not a bad song, is made up of bits from the film and is pretty much useless.

Offhand, even the features don’t make this thing worth spending your time on. If you’re trying to do research into how not to make a scary movie, though, this should be required viewing–because the details are all there.

Where to Find Stuff