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October 22, 2007
Thir13en Ghosts - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
13/12/200124/10/2007Sony PicturesSteve Beck
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DD5.1 640kbps
PCM 4.6Mbps
MA15+Tony Shalhoub

If you're a horror movie fan then it's likely you would have already checked out Thir13en Ghosts (or 13 Ghosts, or Thirteen Ghosts depending how you want to spell it), the 2001 hit movie. It's gory, suspenseful, and has more then enough frights to keep your heart pumping and the adrenaline running. While it's certainly not the best in the genre (the movie only manages a 5.0/10 on IMDB from 14,539 reviews, and 14% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes from 87 reviews) I actually enjoyed it a lot more then many others so it seems. Thir13en Ghosts is actually a remake of the classic William Castle horror film from 1960 - and while we haven't seen the original it is clear from the extras on this disc that there has been quite a bit of updating for this latest movie.

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The star of Monk in a horror movie?!
So what about the story? Thir13en Ghosts is about a family that inherits a spectacular old house from an eccentric uncle. There's just one problem: the house seems to have a dangerous agenda all its own. Trapped in their new home by strangely shifting walls, the family encounters powerful and vengeful entities that threaten to annihilate anyone in their path. Soon the family is joined by an offbeat ghost hunter who is determined to free the spirits imprisoned in the house. Caught in a frantic race to save themselves before it is too late, the human inhabitants realize the house is a riddle which contains the key to their imminent salvation - or destruction.

To be honest, I didn't really expect much of this movie and I actually left the disc sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks before deciding to take the plunge with a couple of friends up for watching the movie as well. As expected, this is very much a B-grade horror flick, but it is one which I actually ended up enjoying quite a bit. The first thing that managed to grab my attention was the impressive cast which includes actors such as F. Murray Abraham, Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, and the gorgeous Shannon Elizabeth. For the most part they put in a decent performance. Matthew Lillard is one that you will love or hate - if you've seen him in other movies you'll know almost immediately how he will act in this movie as the person who can track the ghosts.

Thir13en Ghosts opens with Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) hunting down a ghost in a junkyard for the eccentric Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham). There's plenty of destruction and death on offer and it sets up some of the background for the rest of the movie. Indeed after an initial 30 minutes setting up the characters, and the situation with inheriting the house it's action, and scares a plenty. There are a couple of surprises along the way, and a solid enough ending to make this enjoyable from start to finish.

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OK guys, what are we looking at?
Despite being shot on a relative shoestring budget of between $US20-30 million (apparently) the video quality of Thir13en Ghosts is pretty impressive overall. Encoded using AVC MPEG-4 the movie isn't going to turn heads due to any vibrant, lush scenery, but holds its own during the many darker scenes. With a runtime of just over 90 minutes this isn't the longest movie we've ever seen but it has allowed Sony Pictures to keep the bitrate fairly high between 20-30Mbps but at times we saw the video bitrate touch just under 40Mbps.

Shadow detail is impressive, with clear details in the darkest of scenes. Certainly the visual effects stand up very well in this High Definition transfer. The scene were the lawyer has to split (you'll know what I mean when you see it) is fantastic - but it's the ghosts which really add some menace, and chills, to the movie. Indeed the makeup work on the ghosts is extremely impressive.

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The spirits look pretty spectacular.
Yet again Sony Pictures have come up with the goods for the audio presentation. To be honest we weren't expecting much from this disc, but were pleasantly surprised to discover not only did it contain a Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 640kbps, but also a Linear PCM 5.1 track encoded at 4.6Mbps. While the Dolby Digital track is very good with moderate use of surround sound channels, as expected it's the PCM track that offers the clearer experience by quite a margin. Given the frequent haunting sounds from the movie it certainly adds a bit more punch to the movie. Hell, with the lights out you'll be scared shitless on more then one occasion.

Thir13en Ghosts wasn't ever likely to be a disc packed with extras, but Sony Pictures have given us a couple of nice extras to enjoy including a great audio commentary and two featurettes.

Filmmakers Commentary:

    A fairly decent, quite informative, and often entertaining commentary with Director Steve Beck, Production Designer Sean Hargreaves, and Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Howard Berger all contributing. The commentary offers quite a few insightful comments about production of this movie, the cast and crew involved and the many visual effects used.

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Hey, did you use my makeup!
Ghost Stories (13:22):

    A look at the stories behind the Thirteen Ghosts in the movie. Pretty interesting actually, and a nice little feature to have a look at. Sadly it's only presented in MPEG-2 Standard Definition, but given the intentionally grainy and distorted picture it's hard to notice really.

The Making of Thir13en Ghosts (18:41):

    A pretty standard look at the making of the movie with Producer Joel Silver and much of the cast. Fortunately there is a bit of worthwhile information here making it a featurette worth checking out.

I had never seen Thir13en Ghosts until I was sent this Blu-Ray disc from Sony and while it's certainly not one of the better movies ever made, it is quite entertaining. The presentation of this disc is superb with stunning audio and visual presentation as well as a couple of great extras. If you like this movie then we certainly suggest you pick this Blu-Ray disc up now.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.