|Thirteen Ghosts has a few things about it that might impress audiences (like costume design and make-up), but it utilizes far to many over-used tricks of the trade to make audiences really care about what happens to the unfortunate characters in the film. Beginning with a rather depressing introduction to a poor family struggling with a recent death in the family, the film jumps off to a miserable start and doesnít make any effort to endear the characters to the audience. Their relationships to one another are nothing if not unbelievable, which stems from a combination of bad performances and appalling dialogue.|
Itís unfortunate that Tony Shalhoub chose to take the role of the father in this film, because it certainly does not showcase his best work. As the father of ďKathy,Ē played by Shannon Elizabeth and ďBobby,Ē played by Alec Roberts, Tony Shalhoub is able to make his character seem as if he cares for his children, but he doesnít appear that sympathetic. With all the classic running around in circles that the cast must engage in for about ninety-five percent of the film, the audience never gets to know these characters beyond what type of clothing they prefer and how fast they run.
And since the cinematography and set decoration are so important to the plot of the film, the fact that both are so confusing and muddled makes understanding the plight of the characters more difficult. Much of the movie takes place inside a strange glass-walled mansion with foreign writings etched on its walls and clock-like innards that control the movement of walls, floors, and ceilings. The idea of the house is intriguing at face value, but the sets are not shown to their full advantage in the claustrophobic cinematography. Making the audience uncomfortable in their surrounds was doubtless the goal of the filmmakers, but viewers will be more confused than ill at ease after watching shot after shot of the same exact scenery.
For all the creativity put into the way the house looks, many of the scenes start to become repetitive (as each of the characters are systematically "bumped off") since every wall is glass and none of the rooms are large enough to allow more than a few people to stand in them. Ironically, this repetitive feeling makes the film seem a lot longer than it is. At somewhere around eighty-five minutes (without the end credits), the film is rather short, but the tortuous plot and monotonous scenery make those minutes drag interminably. For a horror film, the characters just arenít killed fast enough and getting to the meat of the story (the reveal of why the house was built like it was) takes far too long.
And when the plot finally unravels and the audience finds out the truth of the matter, itís too long winded and complicated to make an impact. Thatís one of the most confusing aspects of the screenplay. That the film would place its emphasis on action for so much of the story and then try to expose the secrets of the mystery makes no sense. Perhaps if the screenwriter had included hints along the way instead of bombarding the audience with so many ideas right at the end, the film might have been a more intelligent one for audiences to digest.
Perhaps the one creative and attention-grabbing element of the film is the make-up on the serious of ghosts that terrify the main characters. Ranging from headless corpses to knife filled mental patients the ghosts might give weaker members of the audience a few jolts. Though they probably used too frequently overall to be effective for the entire running time. The idea of "less is more" probably didnít occur to the director. Perhaps the one thing the director, Steve Beck, should be complimented on is making his film look so complicated on a rather meager budget.
Confusing, tedious, and scary only in a few areas, Thirteen Ghosts takes its characters and disposes of them in far too obvious a fashion, using techniques that have been abused far too many times before. Itís impossible to really care about the protagonists (given their lack of interesting characteristics), so seeing them get killed may be more of a relief than a heart-stopper. The 13 ghosts in the film will probably receive more sympathy than any of the live characters, simply because their characters actually have more personality than the poor people unlucky enough to be alive and in the house.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.