Peter Plunkett (O'Toole) is almost Driven to Suicide when he's unable to pay the bills on his family castle, which he's turned into a hotel/theatre because of said bills. Until his seemingly Cloudcuckoolander mother informs him that she's been having conversations with his father — who's been dead for years.
Plunkett gets the idea to attract American tourists by advertising the hotel as haunted and gets the castle's thespians and employees to pretend to be ghosts. The Special Effect Failure by the actors tips off the Americans that the hauntings are fake, if it wasn't already obvious by the time they were heading towards the castle, and Plunkett plans to return to his suicide attempts until the real ghosts of his ancestors decide if everybody wants a haunted castle, then that's exactly what they're going to get.
A married couple, Jack and Sharon (Guttenberg and D'Angelo), are having problems, and are only there because Sharon's father is trying to get the deed to the castle, and having the castle's hauntings revealed as fake would benefit this greatly. Things don't go as planned, though, because Jack and Sharon begin individual romances with a pair of ghosts, Mary Plunkett and Martin Brogan (Hannah and Neeson), who are stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop with Mary repeatedly being murdered by Martin, because he believes her to be unfaithful because she doesn't sleep with him on their wedding night.
This movie provides examples of:
- The Alleged Car: The hotel's bus. The first was fairly solid but for the occasional backfire, at least until it went into the lake. It's even worse for the wear during its encore. The second bus definitely qualifies as it falls to bits during a storm, although it's fair to say it had help.
- Beta Couple: Martin and Sharon.
- Brainy Brunette: Completely averted with Miranda.
- Bratty Half-Pint: The parapsychologist's children. Like father, like kids.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Mrs. Plunkett. However, not so much as she first seems - or as most of the characters assume. She goes on about the feelings of dead people and ghosts because she talks to them and is married to one of them. Miranda also qualifies.
- Daddy's Girl: Sharon. Uses her second honeymoon to drag her unwitting husband to a castle her heartless father wants to foreclose on and ship across the Atlantic at least in part because he hates the current owners. Yes, Sharon knows all of this, acknowledges to her husband that her father "hates everybody," and even after being outed on her two-faced nature still sides with daddy.
- Dinner Theatre: Mr. Plunkett has a very odd nautical-themed arrangement on a stage in the castle's dining room and bar, with scenery such as a mermaid and rushing waves being manipulated by crew to the sides while he monologues in front. The ghosts take it over later and stage a much more dynamic prodiction involving a Giant Squid... and a little unwilling Audience Participation.
- Driven to Suicide: Martin, when he regretted killing Mary in a fit of rage.
- The Ditz: Miranda. Jennifer Tilly turns the ditz knob up pretty high as only she can.
- '80s Hair: Well, it was made in 1988.
- Fiery Redhead: Martin is something of a male example. He sure as hell has a Hair-Trigger Temper for most of the movie, though it's Played for Laughs.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Played straight with Mary; averted hard with Sharon.
- Henpecked Husband: Jack. Just about every time he tries to have a normal interaction with his wife or even just a discussion, it frequently ends up with her on the attack and him trying to re-establish peace. The one time he does stand up to her, it's because he thought he was dead and she couldn't hear him. She could. He paid. Again.
- Hot for Preacher: Miranda, for Brother Tony.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Martin and Sharon. Happens when your actor is 6'4" and your actress is 5'2".
- Incest Is Relative: Martin and Sharon end up together. They are related (both being members of the Brogan family), even if centuries have passed.
- Love at First Punch: Martin really starts to fall for Sharon when she kicks him "in the ba-hoogies" and punches him in the nose.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Martin with Mary. She wasn't sleeping with anyone else; she just didn't want to sleep with him.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Peter Seamus O'Toole really failed to affect an Irish accent, despite being half Irish (he was born and grew up in Leeds though.) Liz Smith likewise doesn't bother trying for an Irish accent as Mrs. Plunkett.
- Nuns Are Spooky: As Brother Tony grapples with his attraction to Miranda, he prays to have his impure thoughts cleansed. Cue the appearance of spectral nuns in terrifying winged wimples and blank, faceless heads with glowing eyesnote that rush him out a third story window. Fortunately, the alleged pool is below.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Daryl Hannah's Irish accent is pretty terrible. It's all the more jarring because the other Irish characters are played by actual Irish actors.
- Pair the Spares: Martin and Sharon, who are much more suited for each other than their respective partners.
- Rich Bitch: Sharon.
- Shirtless Scene: Liam Neeson gets a couple. While the makeup department didn't do him any favors, it's still Liam Neeson.
- Special Effects Failure: In-Universe example. The hotel staff's attempts at pretending the hotel is haunted are cringe worthy.
- Stalker with a Crush: Martin for Sharon, albeit briefly.
- Stylistic Suck: The fake ghost show put on by the castle's denizens is pretty terrible, with a "banshee" being pulleyed between windows via an obvious rope, a set of knight armor in roller skates, and an incredibly obvious Pepper's Ghost effect. Once the real ghosts take action, this ends.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Plunkett gets one in on his father's ghost, dressing him down for abruptly dying and leaving him holding the bag on the run-down, debt-ridden castle while never offering any encouragement or warmth. They reconcile afterward, although the hug doesn't really work.
- There Is a God!: The lord of a castle fails to make it a tourist attraction. He's so depressed he's thinking of hanging himself (again) but a storm means the guests have to stay, so he says this.
- Title Drop: Of sorts. Jack is handed a book titled "The Book of High Spirits".
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: All Peter ever wanted was some encouragement from his Daddy. He finally gets some, even if Daddy's a ghost.
- You Have to Believe Me!: Jack is very, very insistent that he's seen ghosts. Sharon is understandably skeptical, until she meets one herself.