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Thir13en Ghosts Blu-ray Review (Scream Factory)

When the house looks like a machine, best not move in

Film
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Audio
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Reader Rating0 Votes
3.5

In the early 2000s, Dark Castle Entertainment struck big with flashy “remakes” of William Castle productions. They started with House on Haunted Hill and with its success turned to Thir13en Ghosts, directed by Steve Beck. While its plot adheres pretty closely to the derivative structure of Castle’s 13 Ghosts, Beck and screenplay writers Neal Marshall Stevens & Richard D’Ovidio liven things up with gore, grue, and technological advancement, playing off the idea of spectral glasses to give the storyline a supernatural mechanical revamp.

One thing that certainly carries over throughout all of Dark Castle’s haunted house films is the flashy editing and effects, which conjures less of a Gothic atmosphere than a strobe-like epileptic fit set in a nightclub. Beck’s direction is certainly frenetic, especially since Thir13en Ghosts takes place almost entirely on the same day. Tony Shalhoub’s character Arthur learns he’s inherited a manse after his Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) passes away, he brings his family including daughter Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth), son Bobby (Alec Roberts), and nanny Maggie (Rah Digga) to move in, and all hell immediately breaks loose when they’re locked in for the night.

No one can deny the film’s speed, but this comes at the expense of good characterization. Beck speeds right through the death of Arthur’s wife in the first minutes of the movie in a fairly effective montage, but the rest of the family gets short shrift throughout it. And the film’s twelve ghosts are like tarot card stand-ins, each with their own backstory that is glossed over in a huge chunk of exposition delivered by the film’s punky guru Kalina (Embeth Davidtz). Ultimately, this means that by the time the viewer gets to the ultimate plan in the finale, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and the film tries to do a speedy recap to get everyone up to speed.

But while the plot may be its weak point, the flashy effects and twisty, labyrinthine layout of the house are its strong suits. The architecture design is well-done, and while there’s a lot of ground to cover, Beck does a good job of managing space. Likewise, the glasses’ effects give the film some suspense because the audience is just as blind as the characters to the ever-lurking ghost presence. Makeup designs are also on-point – though it makes it that much more disappointing that some of the ghosts tend to be underutilized.

No one is going to mistake Thir13en Ghosts for a horror masterpiece. It’s a sugary candy treat rather than a gourmet meal. But at its core is an entertaining vehicle for a dark house movie, one that capitalizes on its gore, ghost creations, and house architecture to give viewers some goofy spooks.

Blu-ray

Thir13en Ghosts gets a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory that does not feature a new transfer, most likely due to contractual agreements with Warner Bros. Though I don’t have the previous Thir13en Ghosts/House of Wax double-feature Blu-ray, judging by screenshots it appears that this is the same transfer. While this transfer may have been fair for its 2010 release, this film could certainly have used a new scan to upgrade the detail on display. The quality is fair with consistent minimal grain presence, but what this does is highlight the overly smooth skin textures throughout. Thir13en Ghosts features a number of sweaty close-ups and this release showcases waxy appearances. Color is managed well though, with blacks presented without noticeable crush. However, this aged transfer most likely could be better with a new crack at it.

Audio is presented with both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 track. The 5.1 is the default and does feature some dips and volume drops, most notable at the beginning of the film with its windy sound effects and then occasionally throughout the film; this is a recurring issue for Scream Factory’s 5.1 audios for some reason. English subtitles included. Check our Spek scans on the side for more information.

Extra features include five new interviews with cast and crew, ranging from about 10-15 minutes per conversation. Shannon Elizabeth returns to talk about her early role and staying in a hotel alone at night after being scared on set; actor Matthew Harrison talks about getting to say the title in his big line; producer Gilbert Adler discusses the idea behind Dark Castle Entertainment’s formation; actor John DeSantis discusses his casting for the huge, evil Juggernaut ghost; and actor Herbert Duncanson talks about the long makeup sessions for his ghost the Hammer. Also new to this release is an audio commentary with director Steve Beck, moderated by Justin Beahm; since they were recording during the pandemic, there’s a noticeable quality difference between Beck’s and Beahm’s recordings but it is definitely a serviceable track.

Included are previously released extras including a featurette on the ghosts themselves, an archival EPK, a featurette on paranormal activity, and an older audio commentary with Beck, Sean Hargreaves, and Howard Berger. A theatrical trailer and TV spots are also featured, together.

This release comes with reversible cover artwork and slipcover; see these scans on the side.

Extra Features

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Director Steve Beck
  • NEW Haunted In Canada – An Interview With Actress Shannon Elizabeth (HD; 9:57)
  • NEW The Voice Of Reason – An Interview With Actor Matthew Harrison (HD; 14:43)
  • NEW Sophomore Spookshow – An Interview With Producer Gilbert Adler (HD; 8:32)
  • NEW The Juggernaut Speaks – An Interview With Actor John DeSantis (HD; 13:14)
  • NEW The Hammer Speaks – An Interview With Actor Herbert Duncanson (HD; 5:56)
  • Thir13en Ghosts Revealed (unrestored HD; 18:40)
  • Ghost Files: A Haunted Houseful Of Poltergeist Profiles (unrestored HD; 14:10)
  • Original Electronic Press Kit Featuring Interviews With The Cast And Crew And Behind-The-Scenes Footage (unrestored HD; 43:24)
  • Audio Commentary With Director Steve Beck, Production Designer Sean Hargreaves And Special Makeup Effects Artist Howard Berger
  • Theatrical Trailer and TV spots (unrestored HD; 5:20)

Verdict

This release of Thir13en Ghosts collects a number of old and new extras to give fans some extra incentive to pick up this Collector’s Edition despite its lack of new transfer. If you own the previous double-feature Blu-ray, this might not be a huge upgrade, especially at its current price; however, if special features are what you’re after then this adds a considerable amount along with some nice new cover artwork.

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