An icky twist on the Disney original, Thirteen Ghosts could have been worth eight bucks if the script and mini-plot lines had been as finely tuned as the set design and special effects. The overall theme and character development was superbly executed, but why did director Steve Beck stop there?
There were scenes (like the when Kathy is playing with her pretend hair at the mirror) that were dragged out with slow camera pans into several aggravating minutes. Please, just show us what we need to see and then move on. Get to the point.
And the point apparently was that love conquers all and enables the main character to jump through giant, revolving saw blades unscathed. Or maybe it was that even dead humans have their God-given rights to freedom. Or maybe that even if one is eccentric and rich enough to build a ghost-juice powered, future-revealing Eye of Hell, fate alone will intervene. God knows fate had to step in because the main characters sure wouldn't have been motivated on their own to do anything about it – not even for all that money dear old Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham-Finding Forrester, Mighty Aphrodite) had hidden away.
The house seconded only Mathew Lillard in saving some amount of quality for the film. Kudos to the set designers. The estranged decor and infrastructure helped show just how demented Cyrus Kriticos was.
I didn't appreciate the dumbing down of revealing the plot. Cyrus exuded stale bathos while explaining his evil plan in a soliloquy that could have been reduced to a simple statement, or just left out. Give your audience some credit, the nature of Arthur's (Tony Shalhoub-Wings, Men in Black) situation was made apparent a good 20 minutes earlier in the film.
Cyrus' unsuspecting, clairvoyant sidekick Rafkin (Mathew Lillard – Hackers, Hardball) worked overly hard in trying to save the quality of the movie. Lillard's a great actor. He's usually typecast as any variety of social freak, but he always does it so well.
Kalina (Embeth Davidtz-Bridget Jone's Diary, Fallen) was the leather-clad, loudmouthed super Barbie heroine complete with matching purse, demolitions, and ancient book of imperative hell-portal information. I imagine about halfway through developing the screenplay the writers went “Ooh! Insert kooky plot twist here!” and decided to turn her into Cyrus' blindly faithful, secret lover/co-conspirator.
Arthur's typical teenage daughter Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth-American Pie) did a mediocre job of delivering bland, unnecessary lines. If not for keeping the same family cast from the Disney version, I'm convinced her part could have been deleted from the story all together.
The son Bobby (Alec Roberts-Heaven's Prisoners) at least had a decent character background. Obsessed with death, his hobby consisted of making tapes of obituary listings on his toy recorder. This was a grand, shining opportunity for the resident ghosts to make some sort of connection with Bobby, instead of just trying to call him down into the basement to his doom.
So many areas of this movie were either underdeveloped or grated into cheesy strains of an originally decent idea.
Yes this horror film made me want to jump. It made me want to jump into my car and go get the Evil Dead series from Blockbuster in an attempt to salvage my evening.