Blu-ray Review: Thir13en Ghosts (Collector’s Edition)

William Castle wasn’t merely a filmmaker who would drone on and on about how you need to watch his movies in the theaters instead of television. He gave people a reason to show up, buy a ticket, take a seat and be a part of a cinematic experience. He came up with amazing gimmicks that couldn’t be repeated at home on a tiny TV set back in the early ’60. He let the audience vote for the ending, built a Cowards Corner for people too scared to see the end of the film and electrified a few seats. For his movie 13 Ghosts, Castle introduced Illusion-O. He played with the basic concept of 3-D glasses except he used the colored lenses so you could see the ghosts or hide them from your sight. You weren’t going to get that effect on a black and white TV set. Forty one years later Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis and Gilbert Adler used their Dark Castle Productions to remake the film as THIR13EN Ghosts (aka Thirteen Ghosts). While it didn’t come with the Illusion-O glasses, the action was coming at you.

Cyrus Kriticos (Homeland‘s F. Murray Abraham) is building a new house and he’s going around the globe looking for a few elements to make the place feel like home. Instead of art or rare house plants, Cyrus has been capturing notorious ghosts. Dennis Rafkin (Scooby-Doo‘s Matthew Lillard) is his psychic assistant that doesn’t have a good sensation as they enter a junkyard searching for The Juggernaut (John DeSantis). They catch the homicidal spirit which comes at a price. The price being that Cyrus’ nephew Arthur Kriticos (Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub) get to inherit the house. Arthur is thrilled since his house burned down and his wife died. All has been going downhill for the guy and his family that includes Kathy (American Pie‘s Shannon Elizabeth and Bobby (Alec Roberts) and their nanny Maggie (Flipmode Squad’s Rah Digga). She can’t abandon the family. They’re taken back at the revolutionary house that is all glass and valuable antiques. Eventually they discover that there’s 12 ghosts being trapped in the house. The family isn’t sure what to do since they really need a place to live as the bills have piled up at their previous home. Dennis shows up to figure out what Cyrus was doing and the mystery of the 13th ghost that was supposed to haunt the joint. Before he can solve the mystery, someone screws up and releases all the ghosts and locks all the exit doors. There might be another six ghosts in the house before the night is over.

THIR13EN Ghosts cranks up both the ghost effects and the production design. Cyrus’ glass mansion remains a marvel to behold after twenty years. The inscribed walls seem like the kind of house that a guy colleting ghosts would live inside instead of the usual creaky creepy haunted house. This is how you can make something so foreboding and yet so transparent. The characters still don’t know what’s on the other side of the clear door until they switch on their special ghost detecting glasses. The ghosts are a lot more menacing in the remake than the William Castle original. Shalhoub, Lillard and Shannon give the proper chaos and horrified performances. Digga does the tough element of making us realize why she’s sticking with a family that can’t afford to pay her. This is a lot more nightmare inducing. If you are too scared to see the ghosts, you need more than a blue filter to block out the spectral rage. You need to just put your hands over your eyes. THIR13EN Ghosts will transform any living room a haunted mansion.

The video is 1.85:1 anamophic. The 1080p resolution brings out the details of the house of glass walls. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1. There’s also the DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix if you don’t have surround sound speakers or are too scared to hear a bump behind you. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary with director Steve Beck is newly recorded for the Blu-ray. Justin Bean joins him on the track. They are recording this track during the COVID-19 pandemic so Steve is speaking from a remote location. So this is a collector’s item for 2020. He talks about coming onto the film after the script had been written. He talks about why they didn’t want to revive the Illusion-O effect in the theaters and brought the glasses into the screen. Beck talks about not being a horror fan because he’s a bit of a coward and hates being scared.

Haunted in Canada (9:57) interviews actress Shannon Elizabeth. She was excited to be in the film and work with a co-star that was in Xanadu. She has never seen the original William Castle version of the film. She enjoyed working with Steve Beck as a director. She bonded with Tony Shalhoub over their Lebanese ancestry. She loved the all glass set although she didn’t know how to navigate it. She enjoyed reuniting with Matthew Lillard since he was part of one of her first movie.

The Voice of Reason (14:43) chats with actor Matthew Harrison. He talks about what he did during his audition and being excited that his character was supposed to say the title of the film in his dialogue. This guaranteed he’d be in the trailer. He was amazed to get to work with F. Murray Abraham.

Sophomore Spookshow (8:32) gives a holler to producer Gilbert Adler. He talks about how Dark Castle was created while they were making HBO’s Tales From the Crypt. He talks about how they originally adapted William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill. He wanted William Castle’s family to enjoy the adaptation of both films. He was a bit skeptical of how the set would work. There was a lot of fear about cameras reflecting in the glass walls. He got along pretty good with director Beck. They were very collaborative.

The Juggernaut Speaks (13:14) gets in touch with with actor John DeSantis. After getting out of the military, John was wanting to be a background extra, but an agent sent him up to Vancouver for a real role. He ended landing the role of Lurch on The New Addams Family. He gives his background to the ghostly character.

The Hammer Speaks (5:56) smacks down an interview with actor Herbert Duncanson. He talks about what it took to be the spirit. He gives the meaning of the stakes all over his characters body. There’s a bit of footage of him in the makeup chair. He’s like Pinhead with a bigger gauge.

Thir13en Ghosts Revealed (18:40) is a vintage piece that lets Joel Silver, Steve Beck and the cast talk about adapting William Castle to the 21st Century. You might not want to watch this until after the film since one of the cast members is still in his fateful makeup.

Ghost Files (14:10) is a Haunted Houseful of Poltergeist Profiles. It gives a summary of most of the ghosts…except the 13th. Can’t give that away.

Original Electronic Press Kit (43:24) features interviews with the cast and crew and behind-the-scenes footage. This is what the movie studio would send out to entertainment tv shows and news channels to dice up to make their own special reports as if they interviewed the stars.

Audio Commentary with director Steve Beck, production designer Sean Hargreaves and special makeup effects artist Howard Berger allows the crew to discuss the effects and the look of the film. They speak about creating the haunted mansion.

Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots (5:20) sets up the amazing house that a family inherits unknowing that it’s full of ghosts. Oddly enough, guess who doesn’t get to say his big line in the trailer.

Scream Factory presents Thir13en Ghosts: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Steve Beck. Screenplay by: Neal Marshall Stevens & Richard D’Ovidio. Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga & F. Murray Abraham R. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: July 28, 2020.

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