Thirteen Ghosts is the second remake in as many years of a horror-schlock film from the William Castle library (following The House on Haunted Hill). If there's one thing this apparent Castle renaissance is proving, it's that horror films have both come a long way from the days of 1950-60s exploitation and scarcely grown at all.
Sinister Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham, back to his slumming ways) has died and willed a glass house to his widower nephew (Tony Shaloub) and his kids (Shannon Elizabeth and Alec Roberts). But wait! The joint's packed with a double six-pack of malevolent spirits that Cyrus had trapped, intending to harness their power to open up the ocularis infernum, or some such nonsense. The script, bursting with lame self-referential quips, is deader than any of the spectral denizens. None of the ghouls is given a back story, reducing them to gory ' and occasionally quite scary ' spookhouse pop-ups.
The house is the real star, a deadly 3D jigsaw labyrinth of shifting gears and sliding walls. It's like an elaborate videogame come to life. It'd make a great amusement-park attraction, and if Castle were alive, he'd probably be building it.
The original film's, uh, selling point was a dopey gizmo Castle dubbed "Illusion-O!," a set of special glasses with colored lenses that allowed the audience to actually "see" the ghosts. Here, it's only the characters who get to use the shades. Too bad they couldn't allow the actors to see their way to a better movie.