Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
Directed by Steve Beck

Starring Alec Roberts Embeth Davidtz Matthew Lillard Shannon Elizabeth Tony Shalhoub

A damn entertaining, slickly produced fear film from the makers of "House on Haunted Hill," this one-ups that movie in the overall imagination department, blending in a little "Hellraiser" theme with the Spielberg-esque direction from Beck, who happened to do visual effects for the third "Indiana Jones" movie.

Lillard, best known for "Scream," plays a psychic investigator who helps an incredibly wealthy and evil adventurer (Abraham) capture dangerous ghosts for use in some diabolical scheme. In this film, ghosts that meet violent ends are themselves violent, and prone toward killing people who happen to show up at their haunts. When Abraham is killed during one of the expeditions, he wills his estate to his long lost nephew, whom he bequeaths a strange glass house. The nephew (Tony Shalhoub) brings his sexy young daughter (Shannon Elizabeth of "American Pie" fame) and young son to the house to check it out, only to be trapped inside.

Lillard also happens to be there, disguised as an electric repairman. They soon discover that the evil uncle captured a dozen ghosts, imprisoning them behind shatter-proof glass that is protected by ancient spells written in Latin. The ghosts, however, have gotten out. They can only be seen wearing special glasses and they're more than willing to kill anyone they think is in their way.

With awesome sets, picture-perfect direction from Beck, decent acting and some amazing gore effects, "13 Ghosts" is a fabulous mainstream horror fest. Most of the film involves characters attempting to navigate themselves throughout the glass house, which turns out to be an occult machine designed to open (you guessed it) the gates of hell. Given the weird futuristic look the house, the film feels a lot like "The Cube," only involving ghosts instead of booby traps. The ghosts themselves are unimpressive and somewhat goofy, with the exception of a nude woman apparition who walks around with a butcher knife.

Like "House on Haunted Hill," this film has some goofy twists and turns in the plot, but it delivers much more of a wallop than that movie, both in terms of suspense and effects.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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