Even stripped of their director's gimmicks (skeletons flying over the audience, electric `tinglers' on cinema seats), `50s director William Castle's B-chillers were as fun as they were ludicrous - hammy horrors rife for remaking in our ironic times.
Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver obviously thought so when they formed Dark Castle, a production company dedicated to releasing new versions of the late cult favourite's creaky terrors. Great idea on paper: terrible in execution. First came House On Haunted Hill, and the less said about that the better. Now there's Thir13en Ghosts, a film so ridiculous, so cringeworthy, so downright painful that even its irritating moniker can't prepare you for the soul-deadening experience of sitting through it.
As in Castle's original, more sensibly titled 13 Ghosts, the plot involves a family - dad Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub) and kids Katherine (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) - inheriting a house from a reclusive uncle (F Murray Abraham). With it, of course, come 12 spectres (the identity of the 13th provides the film's mystery `hook'). Set-up complete, we then get an hour of running, screaming and being bludgeoned senseless by deafening sound effects and endless, almost subliminal shock cuts.
Okay, so the house itself is a triumph of production design, and there are two, yes that's two, good lines. But that doesn't save Steve Beck's directorial debut from being an unwatchable mess. The actors are coming at it from different angles, with Abraham and Matthew Lillard - who gurns wildly as Dennis, a psychic ghost hunter - serving up pure ham, while Shalhoub and Elizabeth play it straight. As for the plot, it has more holes than Sonny Corleone after a visit to the toll booth.
But worst of all are the titular ghosts. Each granted their own Mutilated Chic look, they're wannabe Hellraiser cenobites but lack any of Pinhead's menace. In fact, they're so nondescript you'll wish the characters really were hunting goats instead of ghosts (as Arthur mishears when Dennis explains his profession). And yes, that is one of the two good lines.