Thir13en Ghosts (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Where to begin.

A teacher, his two kids, and their nanny are living in cramped space when they receive a message that rich Uncle Salieri has died and left them his entire estate. This mainly consists of a really big house out in the country, many miles from civilization. It's a house in which the interior walls are all made of glass, and the exterior walls are all made of gingerbread. But it's very durable, treated, industrial-strength gingerbread. And they really took a major upgrade on the floor coverings. Instead of going for the cheap linoleum or low-grade carpeting, they opted for the Satanic concentric circle gear package, in a light mauve and beige combination. I understand that Satan himself picked out the kitchen tiles and counters, and I loved the light rose with offsetting grey pattern that he chose for his portal to hell. And, like a smart shopper, he went for the dark grouting, which is so much less affected by the sulfuric fires of eternal perdition.


one of the ghosties (Shawna Loyer) was naked through the entire film, but she's wearing a prosthetic chest. I have no idea how much of her is really her.

Now let's see if I got this straight. The house is not actually a house, but a machine. Uncle Salieri was assembling an evil machine to open a portal to hell. According to the ancient books written by Satan himself (as told to Dick Schaap), the evil machine had to be powered by 13 ghosts, and Lucifer was very specific about who the ghosts have to be. You can't just go out and get the ghosts of random drunks, or baseball umpires or technical librarians or Unitarians. You have to have one of this and one of that, kind of like a Satanic recipe. You need:

  • 1 bartered bride
  • 1 slithy tove
  • 1 game show host, but not Wink Martindale
  • 1 nubian slave
  • 1 person drowned in a vat of Vlasic Kosher Dill pickles
  • 1 peripatetic philosopher
  • 1 member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, and not a middle reliever
  • 1 used car salesman
  • 1 person who can understand Donnie Darko
  • 1 person who has never seen Madonna's breasts
  • 2 turtle doves
  • and Tony Shaloub

Salieri has been planning his machine for years, and he had to wait patiently, because Donnie Darko had not been written yet, and Tony Shaloub was still under contract to Wings, which was also produced by Satan Enterprises, and was turning a healthy profit at the time, so Satan wouldn't let him out of his contract. Once those final parts of the puzzle were completed, however, Salieri was ready to move.

Well, to be technical, Donnie Darko will actually be written in 2011, but we are seeing it now because of a time warp.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Commentary by production designer Sean Hargreaves and creator of make-up effects Howard Berger

  • "Ghost Files" - 12 vignettes profiling the ghosts

  • Music montage

  • Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85

But before Salieri could open the portal to hell, Embeth Davidtz showed up and had to read the Satanic recipe out loud several times. She would go up to every other character in this thing and say "and then Satan said we must have one bartered bride, one .....". And while she spoke, the director would show us what those people looked like in a cheesy montage. While she was doing this the eighth or ninth time to pad out the running time, she was talking about the 1957 Braves and they were showing a cheesy highlight from the career of Bob "Hurricane" Hazle, when the listener said, "Hey, you don't have to tell me this. I AM Satan"

So they got on with it.

I would, at this point, spoil the ending for you so you don't have to see it, but I don't actually remember what happened. I think one of other ghosts turned out to be related to Tony Shaloub, and Satan's rules specifically forbid contestants to be related to other contestants, so the Lord of Darkness disqualified Uncle Salieri until the sequel.

Oh that Satan. He's so picky on those rules. It seem to me that he really doesn't want to open those portals between hell and our world. I say he's getting isolationist in preparation for Pat Buchanan's arrival.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one a and a half stars. Ebert 1/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4, BBC 2/5, 2.5/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: a minor hit. Budget: $20 million, domestic gross $41 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Not even worth a look if you like ghosts and haunted houses. It is slow and repetitive, and the characters are impossible to identify with. The only redeeming factor is a gorgeous glass-walled house filled with incantation graffiti, mysterious concentric gears painted with ancient runes, and other pseudo-Satanic bric-a-brac

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