Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Steve Beck|
|Produced by||Robert Zemeckis
|Written by||Robb White
Neal Marshall Stevens
and F. Murray Abraham
|Music by||John Frizzell|
|Edited by||Derek G. Brechin
Edward A. Warschilka
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures (U.S. and Canada)
Columbia Pictures (International)
|Release dates||October 26, 2001|
|Running time||90 minutes|
Thirteen Ghosts (also known as 13 Ghosts and stylized as Thir13en Ghosts) is a 2001 American horror film directed by Steve Beck. It is a remake of the 1960 film 13 Ghosts by William Castle. It follows the remake of another one of Castle's films, House on Haunted Hill. It was shot entirely around the Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada.
Ghost hunter Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) and his psychic assistant Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) lead a team on a mission to capture a spirit called the Juggernaut. Several men are killed, including Cyrus. However, the team is able to catch the ghost. Cyrus's nephew, Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub), a widower, is informed by Cyrus's estate lawyer, Ben Moss (JR Bourne), that he has inherited a mansion. Financially insecure, Arthur decides to move there with his two children, Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) and their nanny Maggie (Rah Digga).
Dennis meets the family as they tour the mansion. The residence is made entirely of glass with Latin phrases etched on it. Dennis warns Arthur that there are 12 violent ghosts imprisoned in the house, held captive by the Latin phrases, which are actually magic spells. Moss picks up a valise of cash (presumably a payment set aside for him), unaware it was set on a lever that, when released, activates a mechanism that seals the home and begins to release the ghosts; he is killed shortly after by a set of sliding doors that cuts him in half. Bobby disappears and encounters several ghosts, including the Withered Lover, who is revealed to be the ghost of his dead mother, Jean. Dennis manages to use a pair of spectral glasses - which allow the wearer to see into the supernatural realm - to convince Maggie of the ghosts. Shortly after, Dennis discovers that the Jackal has been released, meaning they are in grave danger.
Kathy puts on a pair of the spectral glasses and sees the Jackal, who viciously attacks her in the bathroom. She and Arthur are saved by Kalina Oretzia (Embeth Davidtz), a spirit liberatory, who is attempting to free the ghosts. Kathy suddenly disappears; Kalina explains that the house is actually a machine designed by 15th century astrologer Basileus while possessed by the devil. Cyrus acquired Basileus' plan and constructed the house, powering it with 12 ghosts, to allow him to open the "Ocularis Infernum" ("Eye of Hell"), part of the machine that allows its user to see everything in the past, present and future. Arthur's children are in grave danger, and the only way to ensure their safety is for Arthur to sacrifice himself as the 13th ghost - a ghost created out of pure love, which would destroy the machine.
Arthur and Dennis attempt to find the children. The ghosts known as the Juggernaut and the Hammer are released and assault the two men. Dennis sacrifices himself and traps Arthur behind a wall. Arthur watches helplessly as the Juggernaut brutally kills Dennis. Cyrus is revealed to be alive, having faked his death to lure Arthur to the house; Kalina is his secret partner. Cyrus has orchestrated the abduction of Kathy and Bobby so that Arthur will become the 13th ghost, which will not stop the machine, as Kalina had claimed, but trigger its activation. Cyrus kills Kalina and summons the ghosts to activate the machine.
Arthur arrives at the main hall and witnesses all 12 ghosts orbiting a clockwork device of rotating metal rings, his children at the center. Arthur and Cyrus have a violent confrontation while Maggie disrupts the machine's controls. The ghosts hurl Cyrus into the rings, slicing him to pieces. With the encouragement of Dennis' ghost, Arthur jumps into the machine and saves his children. The walls of the house shatter as the malfunctioning machine rips itself apart, freeing the ghosts. The ghost of Arthur's wife, Jean, appears before the family and tells them that she loves them. Dennis's ghost smiles at Arthur.
As the family leaves the house, the nanny exclaims that she is quitting.
The first twelve of the thirteen ghosts that make up the fictional "Black Zodiac" each have their own unique background stories. Although these stories were not described in the film, the production and make-up teams explain their guidelines on the DVD special feature "Ghost Files". Cyrus narrates each ghost's back story. They also seem to increase in danger as their numbers increase.
1 The First Born Son - The First Born Son is the ghost of Billy Michaels, a boy who loved cowboy films. One day, a neighbor found a real steel-tipped bow and arrow in his house and challenged Billy to a duel, with Billy using a toy gun. However, his plaything was no match for the arrow, and he died when the neighbor shot it through the back of his head. In death, Billy is in his cowboy suit, holding a tomahawk, with the arrow still protruding from his head. His ghost whispers "I want to play" or "play with me."
2 The Torso - The Torso is the ghost of a gambler called Jimmy "The Gambler" Gambino. One day, he made a deal with a made man, Larry “The Finger” Vitello, and when he bet heavily on a boxing match and lost, he tried to slip out of town. The mob and the winning boxer, to whom he owed money, caught up with Gambino and cut him into several pieces, wrapping them in cellophane and dumping the remains into the ocean. His ghost is just his torso, trying to walk around on its hands, while his head lies nearby screaming within the cellophane.
3 The Bound Woman - The Bound Woman is the ghost of Susan LeGrow, a girl with a wealthy background. Susan had a penchant for dating one boy and cheating on him with another. This left a long trail of broken hearts. During her senior year in high school, she dated the star football player Chet Walters. On the night of her school prom, Chet found Susan with another boy. The next morning, the boy was found dead and Susan was missing. Her body was found buried at the 50-yard line of the school football field. Chet was convicted and sentenced to death. Right before his execution he said, “The bitch broke my heart so I broke her neck”. Her ghost is wearing her prom dress and is hanging from the ceiling with her arms tied.
4 The Withered Lover - The Withered Lover is Jean Kriticos, Arthur's wife. She was burned severely while saving her family from a devastating house fire, and died of her wounds in the hospital. Her ghost initially appears in a hospital gown, hooked up to an IV pole and showing severe burns on her face. However, after the destruction of the machine, her ghost is wearing her normal clothes and her burns have vanished. Unlike the other ghosts, she is not a vengeful spirit and tries to help her family.
5 The Torn Prince - The Torn Prince is the ghost of Royce Clayton, a gifted baseball star in high school, albeit with attitude issues and a superiority complex. In 1957, he was challenged by a greaser named Johnny to a drag race, but was killed as his car spun out of control; the cause of the accident was a cut brake line. He was buried in a plot of earth that overlooked his hometown baseball diamond. His ghost carries a baseball bat, and parts of his face and body are torn to shreds from when he was dragged under the car. His ghost uses his bat as a powerful weapon and in his cell, he sits atop the upturned car which ended his life.
6 The Angry Princess - The Angry Princess is the ghost of Dana Newman, who had the natural beauty of a goddess but the inability to recognize it. By her early 20s, a string of abusive boyfriends led her into a downward spiral of self-loathing. Her desperate search for perfection led her to find employment with a plastic surgeon, where her wage was paid in nose jobs, breast implants and other procedures. One night at the clinic, Dana tried to perform surgery on herself. The unorthodox procedure went horribly wrong and she was left blind in one eye. She committed suicide in the bathtub by slashing herself with a butcher knife until her veins ran dry. When she was discovered, people said she was as beautiful in death as she was in life. Her ghost is naked, holding the same knife she killed herself with, showing all the wounds. Her cell is covered in blood.
7 The Pilgrimess - The Pilgrimess is the ghost of Isabella Smith. In 1675, Isabella sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in search for a warm comfortable home in New England, but the tight-knit townsfolk didn’t trust outsiders and isolated her from the town. The town's livestock began to die mysteriously so the local preacher accused her of witchcraft. As more livestock started to fall ill, the preacher acquired a mysterious illness. The town rallied into a frenzy, cornering Isabella in a barn, which they lit on fire. Isabella miraculously crawled out, still alive without a single burn. So instead, she was sentenced to a slow death in the stocks, where she stayed for weeks on end while children pelted her, women cursed her, and men spat on her. The humiliation grew far worse than the pain, so finally Isabella succumbed to starvation. Her ghost is walking around with her hands still locked in the stocks.
8+9 The Great Child & The Dire Mother - The Dire Mother is the ghost of Margaret Shelburn, a shy woman who rose to only a mere three feet in height. She was constantly stared at for her small size but Margaret didn’t care as long as she found some form of acceptance. A carnival barker named Jimbo placed her on display in his freak show. One night, she was raped by a carnival freak called The Tall Man. Her son, Harold, the Great Child, was born as a result, and eventually weighed over 300 pounds. Since infancy, Margaret spoiled Harold, so he remained in diapers his entire life. The two became very close and protective of each other. One day, some circus workers decided to play a cruel joke on Harold by kidnapping his mother. He found that she had died of suffocation in the sack she was kept in. Enraged, Harold violently chopped the workers to death with an axe, and placed their remains on display for paying customers to see. When Jimbo found out what Harold had done, he ordered an angry mob to confront and execute Harold. Their ghosts are always together and the Great Child still holds his axe.
In the original script, their deaths were different. It's explained in the director's commentary on the DVD that their original deaths were that Harold suffocated on his own vomit and as a result fell onto his mother, thus suffocating her as well. It wasn't until later that this idea was disregarded as the directors felt it was too weak a character background. It is through this story line that explains why Harold has vomit all over his bib, and why his mother is feeding him in their cell.
10 The Hammer - The Hammer is the ghost of a blacksmith, George Markley, who lived in a small town in the 1890s. He was wrongfully accused of stealing, and when threatened with exile, refused to leave town. A gang led by his accuser hanged his wife and children and burned their bodies; in revenge, George used his sledgehammer to beat his accuser and the other culprits to death. He was then subjected to a cruel form of frontier justice by the townsfolk, being chained to a tree and executed by having railroad spikes driven into his body with his own sledgehammer. They cut off his hand and attached the sledgehammer to the wrist where the hand was cut off. His ghost is seen with the railroad spikes protruding from his body and a sledgehammer for a left hand.
11 The Jackal - The Jackal is the ghost of Ryan Kuhn. In 1887, Ryan was born to a prostitute. By his adult years, Ryan developed a sick insatiable taste for females and began attacking prostitutes. Feeling a desperate need of help, he committed himself to an asylum. After years of imprisonment in a padded room, Ryan went insane, scratching at the walls so violently that his nails were torn off. The doctors kept him permanently bound in a straitjacket, tying it tighter when he would act out, causing his limbs to contort horribly. Ryan gnawed right through it so the doctors stuck him in a basement cell and locked his head in a cage. There, he grew to hate all mankind. When a fire broke out in the asylum, everyone but Ryan escaped. His ghost is in his undone straitjacket and his head is still locked in the cage. If he encounters fire, his ghost will disappear.
12 The Juggernaut - The Juggernaut is the ghost of a serial killer named Horace "Breaker" Mahoney. Standing 7 feet tall, he was of such grotesque height and appearance that everyone ostracized him as a child. His mother abandoned him at birth, so his father raised him, putting him to work in the junkyard crushing old cars. After his father died, Horace was left on his own, and soon went mad. He would pick up female hitchhikers on the road and drive them back to his junkyard, then tear them apart with his bare hands and feed them to his dogs. One day, he picked up an undercover female police officer, who called for backup, bringing a SWAT team to surround the junkyard. The police arrested the giant. However, Horace broke free and three officers lost their lives. Quickly, five SWAT officers took out their guns and brought Horace down in a hail of bullets. When he finally went down, they shot an extra round of ammunition into him "just to be safe." His ghost still shows bullet holes all over his clothing. According to Dennis, Horace killed nine people when he was alive, another thirty-one as a ghost, then many of Cyrus' assistants and, during the film's events, Dennis himself.
13 The Broken Heart - The thirteenth ghost would've been Arthur. He had to be alive to be sacrificed into the Eye of Hell and then die to save his family, but the ghosts threw Cyrus into the Eye of Hell instead, setting all twelve ghosts free and the would-be thirteenth free, too.
- Tony Shalhoub as Arthur Kriticos
- Embeth Davidtz as Kalina Oretzia
- Matthew Lillard as Dennis Rafkin
- Shannon Elizabeth as Kathy Kriticos
- Alec Roberts as Bobby Kriticos
- Rah Digga as Maggie Bess
- F. Murray Abraham as Cyrus Kriticos
- J.R. Bourne as Ben Moss
- Mikhael Speidel as Billy Michaels/The First Born Son
- Daniel Wesley as Jimmy "The Gambler" Gambino/The Torso
- Laura Mennell as Susan LeGrow/The Bound Woman
- Kathryn Anderson as Jean Kriticos/The Withered Lover
- Craig Olejnik as Royce Clayton/The Torn Prince
- Shawna Loyer as Dana Newman/The Angry Princess
- Xantha Radley as Isabella Smith/The Pilgrimess
- C. Ernst Harth as Harold Shelburne/The Great Child
- Laurie Soper as Margaret Shelburne/The Dire Mother
- Herbert Duncanson as George Markley/The Hammer
- Shayne Wyler as Ryan Kuhn/The Jackal
- John DeSantis as Horace "Breaker" Mahoney/The Juggernaut (credited as John De Santis)
Reviews for the film were mostly negative, with Thirteen Ghosts garnering a "Rotten" rating of 14% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus being "The production design is first rate, but 13 Ghosts is distinctly lacking in scares." Roger Ebert praised the production values saying, "The production is first-rate. The physical look of the picture is splendid." However, he criticized the story, lack of interesting characters, loud soundtrack, and poor editing. It is currently on his list of "Most Hated" films. In the US, the film opened ranking 2nd, making $15,165,355. It spent 10 weeks in the US box office, eventually making $41,867,960 domestically, and $68,467,960 worldwide.
- Official website
- Thirteen Ghosts at the Internet Movie Database
- Thirteen Ghosts at AllMovie
- Thirteen Ghosts at Box Office Mojo