Directed by: Steve Beck
Written by:Neal Stevens, Richard D’Ovidio
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Alec Roberts, F. Murray Abraham
Released: December 13, 2001
Grade: B-

It’s seems unusual to begin my review this way but Thirteen Ghosts has one the greatest sets I’ve ever seen.  Forget the actors, forget the director, forget the plot, I just want to know who built this amazing house.

The house is left to Arthur Kriticos (Shalhoub) and his two children, Kathy (Elizabeth) and Bobby (Roberts) following the death of his Uncle Cyrus (Abraham).  Arthur’s wife was killed in a house fire six months previous and the family has since struggled both emotionally and financially.  This fortunate break could get their lives back on track.

They take the two hour drive into the secluded forest to see the house for their own eyes.  It’s an archaeological and technological marvel featuring many glass panels, strange rooms and narrow corridors.  On entering the house, they are warned by visitor Dennis Rafkin (Lillard) that there are ghosts locked in the basement and they must leave the house immediately.

In a departure from standard “ghost films”, we don’t go through the whole “I don’t believe in ghosts” routine.  Arthur learns pretty quickly that something is amiss with the house but his son has gone walkabout and he must find him first.  Throughout this, the lawyer has snuck into the basement to find a bag of money left by Cyrus.  When he finds and opens the bag, a mechanism is activated transforming the house into a machine.  All exits are locked, the corridors change and one by one the ghosts are released...

Tony Shalhoub (The Man Who Wasn’t There, Galaxy Quest, A Civil Action) is an usual choice to star in a low budget horror flick but he’s a great choice and gives an even greater performance.  Matthew Lillard has some damn funny lines too.

But back to the house.   I’m positive much of the $20m budget was spent on its creation and Sean Hargreaves, Don Macaulay and Dominique Fauquet-Lemaitre appear in the opening credits and those responsible.  Reminiscent of the indy flick Cube, the entire film is set in one place and it has that claustrophobic feel.  A great job.

Thirteen Ghosts is particularly gruesome and not for the faint of heart.  An early scene involving the lawyer is evidence of that.  But the increased horror pumps the adrenalin and keeps the story rolling.  Not for everyone but good enough for me.