Saturday, October 13, 2007

ON THE 13th DAY OF HALLOWEEN what could be more appropriate for our viewing pleasure than THIRTEEN GHOSTS?!?! Not the original by William Castle which frankly ain't all that. . .but the 21st century remake. Now I don't know what all the hoohah against the Dark Castle Entertainment remakes of William Castle's old barnburners is about -- but I like them. The 1999 "House on Haunted Hill", "Thirteen Ghosts" and "Ghost Ship" are all a hell of a lot of fun to watch -- which is what they're SUPPOSED to be -- as well as being MUCH more interesting and entertaining than most of the so-called horror films being made at the same time. Remember "WHAT LIES BENEATH" perhaps? The jokes going around the time were either "What Lies Beneath" is shit or "What Lies Beneath" -- well, it should've been a SCREENPLAY! Or how about the horrendous "VALENTINE" which managed to be just as boring as all the 80's slasher films it fruitlessly emulated. Whereas I wouldn't watch these movies again if you paid me, I return to the Dark Castle films again and again. Because dammit, they're great spooky rollercoaster rides that have interesting premises.
"THIRTEEN GHOSTS", for instance. Whereas the 1999 remake of "House on Haunted Hill" I'd put on about an equal par with the original (both are quite different and the remake doesn't have the cop out of "no ghosts"), the remake of THIRTEEN GHOSTS is much better than the original (which, let's face it, is really quite boring and tepid). The plot is totally revamped from the original: F. Murray Abraham has constructed a huge bizarre house where the walls, floors and ceilings are all made of glass. The glass is also copiously etched with protective spells since the dotty zillionaire has a habit of "trapping" vengeful ghosts in the basement. The house itself is, in fact, a huge machine "designed by the devil" from an arcane book which, when powered by the dead, will open the eye of hell. Old F. Murray ain't nothing if not ambitious. Sadly, while tapping his 12th ghost (The Juggernaut) with the help of Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo movie (Matthew Lillard), he is killed. In his will, he leaves everything to his distant nephew (the guy who plays Monk on TV Tony Shalhoub) and his family who are living in poverty since their house burned down killing Monk's wife.
The house set is wonderful and quite original; we've never seen anything like it before in a horror film (or any other kind of film I can recall). The glass walls slide here and there through the workings of the house's diabolical mechanism, trapping the family inside. Naturally, these self-same walls slide open to let loose the vengeful (and quite homicidal) ghosts. These demonic wraiths each have their own look, personality and backstory! With ghosts like The Jackal, The Hammer, The Pilgrimess and the Angry Princess, the movie never slows down for a minute. The new film riffs on the original William Castle gimmick of handing out "ghost viewers" so the audience can see the ghosts; in the remake the characters themselves can't see the ghosts without wearing specially designs glasses. The cast plays it totally straight (with only Lillard hamming it up shamelessly -- but it kinda works for a movie like this). Shannon Elizabeth as the daughter is quite credible as is Rah Digga as the "babysitter" (who, upon first seeing the glass house quips she just wants everyone to know that she DOESN'T do windows). Even Embeth Davidtz (the angelic teacher "Miss Honey" from the great children's film "MATILDA") makes an appearance as a tough-as-nails "ghost liberator"!
Of course, the real attraction here is the ghosts; and they're a whole lot of fun (some are quite fearsome looking). So we're letting loose the 13 ghosts for some Halloween viewing.


Fink Master Flash said...

this movie is classic. and i totally agree that the William Castle remakes are excellent. i thought Matthew Lillard was good in this movie. the role kinda called for an eccentric nut. he played it well. kinda like Chris Katan in House On Haunted Hill, he nailed it.

Cerpts said...

The spectacular thing about Chris Kattan in "House" was that he played it straight and not for laughs. But still his character was hilarious -- because the humour came from the character itself as written. If Kattan had played it deliberately for laughs, it would've fallen flat. While I don't think Lillard in "Ghosts" was quite as good as Kattan in "House", he was still pretty enjoyable.