As cult classics go Thirteen Ghosts has pretty much everything needed to be considered a classic. A premise cheesier than foot thick pizza, terrible special effects and Matthew Lillard over-acting in a pair of sex goggles. Weirdly, despite seeming like a cheap remake of a campy 60’s movie a lot of work when into realising the film’s eponymous ghosts. Not that any of that made it into the movie.
A remake of an earlier movie with the same name, though the original admittedly lacked the balls to call itself THIR13EN Ghosts like the remake, the movie was written with the intention of evoking the same kind of campiness you’d get from the original. Or at least, it was rewritten to do that since the script was reportedly a far more straight-forward horror movie until he did an uncredited rewrite and made it funny.
Which makes sense considering the original movie was a William Castle movie who, as we’ve discussed before, was a big fan of gimmicks in his horror movies like throwing skeletons into the audiences during a jump scare or putting plane engines beneath seats that were set to turn on just after a character would break the fourth wall and tell the audience there was a parasite trying to jump into someone’s asshole.
As for the gimmick for 13 Ghosts Castle devised a variation of the 3D glasses popular at the time that would allow audiences to choose whether or not they could actually see the ghosts. Encouraging people to rewatch the film multiple times to see how scenes looked with and without DISCO SKELETON!
Something the remake actually acknowledges by giving everyone special ghost goggles that will allow them to see the wailing spirits of the dead that look like cheap plastic glasses.
So yeah, if you wondered why this particular effect looked so shit compared to everything else in the film, that’s why. Which isn’t us being facetious by the way, while the film received middling reviews there was a lot of praise for the designs and look of the ghosts that haunt the everliving fuck out of Tony Shaloub.
In fact, a chief complaint many levelled against the film is that they didn’t spend enough time explaining what in the hell each ghosts deal was because some of them are so horribly fucked up you can’t help but wonder what kinda shit must have transpired for them to end up like that.
Well oddly enough they did explain what happened to each of the 12 ghosts seen in the movie. Before that though for anyone wondering why we keep mentioning that a film called THIR13EN Ghosts only 12 ghosts in it, the 13th ghost is meant to be known legend of this Earth, Tony Shaloub but he survives so the film only features 12 ghosts. Well technically it does feature 13 because Matthew Lillard becomes a ghost but that’s besides the point.
Anyway, each of the 12 featured ghosts looks all kinds of fucked up and each has a pretty compelling backstory that’s only vaguely hinted at throughout the movie. Each of which could make for a horror vignette or even movie in its own right. For example consider the 9th ghost known as The Hammer who is said to be the vengeful spirit of a blacksmith who’s family was lynched in the deep south to which he responded by beating everyone involved to death with a sledgehammer. After being lynched himself he comes back as hammer-handed wraith intent on beating railroad spikes through the dicks of every racist he finds.
Every ghost has a backstory that as gripping as that and the only place they’re mentioned is the special features section of the DVD which someone has of course uploaded to YouTube.
A special feature that many reviewers argue is better story-telling than the film itself, though it’s admittedly less visually impressive than the film since it’s largely composed of stock photos and concept art. Still, it’s some creepy-ass concept art.