Sunday, October 13, 2013
Trick or Trailers: Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
From this trailer, it was clear that this would not be a ghost story crafted in the subtle, suggestive tradition of Henry James or Shirley Jackson. Instead, this Dark Castle production was more akin to being front row at a rowdy WWE Smackdown than it was to taking a hushed journey to Hill House.
Some fans may disagree but I believe this simply honors Castle's own unsnobbish, crowd-pleasing approach, which was all about putting on a show and grabbing the audience's attention by any means necessary. Anyone who'd go so far as to give the audience electrical shocks would likely not balk at whatever approach any remake of his material might take in order to pull people in.
Under the direction of Steve Beck, Thirteen Ghosts is not a perfect movie by any means but it's certainly fun and energetic and I have a lot of affection for it. Mostly I love the production design involving the house made out of glass. That in itself is enough to win me over. We've seen so many haunted houses over the years - some gothic, like Hill House, and some contemporary like the Freeling's suburban home in Poltergeist but never, ever had we seen anything like the one in Thirteen Ghosts.
On top of that, there's the look of the ghosts themselves. These aren't just wispy, ethereal CGI specters; these are real actors in elaborate prosthetic make-up that, with character names like "The Juggernant" and "The Hammer", deserved to have their own line of action figures - or at the very least, stickers and bubblegum cards.
Why these guys haven't been incorporated into one of the big horror attractions that open during the Halloween season, like Universal or Knotts Berry Farms, I don't know.
Created by KNB, the ghosts in this film are wonderfully garish and dripping with gore, looking like they came full-blown out of the pages of a horror comic. They all had their own backstories and mythologies and it's a shame that with all the thought put into developing this world that this film never spawned its own sequel.
Unlike Castle's own films, this didn't have any cool gimmicks to sell it, just some really good ghosts.
Here's the trailer for the Castle original: