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13 Ghosts

One evil spirit would be enough, but the Kriticos family must deal with 12 of them after they move into their new home.


Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub) is trying to keep his small family together after losing his wife and the mother of their kids Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) in a tragic fire that left them homeless. Out of nowhere, one enigmatic Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) wills Arthur a bizarre yet dazzlingly beautiful mansion made almost entirely of glass and filled with priceless antiques. There's not much that could go unseen behind the transparent walls, except for perhaps 12 pesky ghosts of disturbed folks like onetime mental patients and a kid whose head got in the way of an arrow. It just so happens old Cyrus, with the help of his psychic phantom-wrangler Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), has been summoning up a few restless spirits so he can open the Eye of Hell and take over the world, or something. They just need one more spirit to finish the job.


All right, who's blackmailing Oscar-winner Abraham into taking roles like this? The man should have thrown the script out sight-unseen and then fired his agent. Rah Digga, yet another rapper-turned-wanna-be-actress, is there to offer some sassy comic relief as the kids' nanny--she's fun, in a usual sort of way. Shalhoub-ho, hum. Elizabeth? Yawn. She's not even in half the movie. Lillard, it can be said, is about the only bright spot in this otherwise not-silly-enough, not-cheesy-enough, not-funny-or-scary-enough horror movie. He's got the right idea as he tries to camp it up as a borderline hysterical psychic who has guilt issues about being able to see everyone's secrets with his ''gift.'' But worst of all is the usually great Embeth Davidtz (um, Schindler's List?!) as a--get this--ghost's rights activist, who thinks she's channeling Zelda Rubenstein from Poltergeist as she hisses the obvious: ''This house is not a house!''


The only thing scarier than F. Murray Abraham taking a role in this movie is that it ever got made at all--then again, we have the Dark Castle folks (the same ones who brought us that masterpiece remake The Haunting a few years ago) to thank. They forgot to hire a director and a scriptwriter, instead putting visual effects guy Steve Beck behind the camera to show us some semi-interesting special effects (it is a ghost movie, after all, and you better score some points there). Unfortunately, the movie is uneven, makes little sense and strives for both laughs and scares but achieves neither with cornball dialog and silly stereotypes; it's wildly gory, to boot. Everyone's gonna say the ultra-modern haunted house is the star of Thirteen Ghosts, and with good reason. The production design in this movie is amazing, and the idea of ghosts hiding behind clear walls is an intriguing, if ultimately wasted, concept.

Bottom Line

Thirteen hundred ghosts shouldn't be able to drag you to see this latest sorry entry in the horror movie hall of shame.