R, 1 hr. 31 min. Directed by: Steve Beck. Release Date: October 23, 2001. DVD Release Date: April 2, 2002.
For whatever reason, this movie always takes me back to my fraternity days. I had graduated by the time this hit theaters, but it's the type of movie that really had its heyday in the 90s, back when I was in college. Thirteen Ghosts is one of those horror movies that strives more for visual impact than any real fear, where the fright takes a backstage to anything that might make the final production cooler, hipper, trendier. Scream seems to have started that trend, influencing a generation of horror films with mixed results.
There's a lot wrong with this as a film. As is almost a requirement in horror films, the acting is horrific, bordering on criminal, and frankly, no movie should feature Shannon Elizabeth and Matthew Lillard together as a matter of public service. But even Tony Shalhoub sucked, and I know he can do better… so I blame most of the technical problems on the director. I don't need the blood and gore that abounds in this movie. With the exceptions of the first Saw and Final Destination, that's never the variable that drives my interest when I go to see a horror movie. I like those movies where sound effects creep you out and then something reaches out and grabs some half-wit victim, and I feel like that's lacking, even though there is some of that because of the cast's inability to see the ghosts without the specially made goggles strewn around the house. But really, most of what drives this movie is kind of silly. Fake Latin, some ghosts inspired (slightly) by Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Dante-esque research into the occult, and Matthew Lillard drooling all over himself.
The first thing that stands out in this movie is the soundtrack, which is hot for the time, but dated now. The songs are good, but tended to overwhelm what was going on in the movie, to include dialogue. The soundtrack is almost the most obvious clue that we're looking at "hip horror," although Matthew Lillard's drooling, spastic presence helps clarify that if we were questioning the purpose of the movie. I'm told he was hip once. I don't buy it, but that's what I'm told. The settings of the movies all have a certain aspect of chic-ness, whether it's raw and gritty or modern with retro cultish elements. I would happily suspect they spent almost as much on the sets and related effects as they did anything else in the movie. I have to dig the costumes for the ghosts. Pretty slick. More back story on each ghost would have been appreciated.
I should also mention that no matter what my thoughts on the movie, I love the graphic design of the film poster. That picture in a picture thing is awesome and largely underrepresented in film posters.