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Film / Thir13en Ghosts

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"Did I just say there was a petting zoo downstairs?! No! There are ghosts downstairs, Arthur!"

Thir13en Ghosts is the 2001 remake of the 1960 film 13 Ghosts, directed by Steve Beck and starring Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, and F. Murray Abraham.

Arthur Kriticos (Shalhoub) finds himself as a heir to a elaborate glass mansion after his uncle Cyrus dies. The mansion turns out to be harboring a sinister purpose, as the in-house machinery starts moving the glass walls that are inhabited by the eponymous ghosts, held in check by Latin phrases etched in the panels.

This remake provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Well, if the "Ocularis Infernum" ended up working, it would be lucky for the operator. Although the road to that point...
  • Accidental Hero: Maggie breaks the machine by playing DJ with its control panel, which looks a lot like a sound-mixing board.
  • Act of True Love: The only way to shut down the Ocularis Infernum is through an act of self-sacrifice (which would create a ghost made from True Love, which would act as the shut-down). Arthur is quite willing to make that sacrifice when his kids are taken by the ghosts. Which is what Cyrus wants, actually. That's why he put the kids in peril, after all...
  • Adaptation Name Change: Ben, the lawyer from the original, is named Dennis here.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Dennis is also not a villain here, no, he's not exactly a nice person. But he ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice at the end.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Cyrus in the original was the hero of the story. Here, he's the Evil Uncle who sets the plot in motion.
  • All There in the Manual: The DVD extras gives the background of each of the ghosts and how they fit into the Black Zodiac.
  • And I Must Scream: Ghost #2, the Torso, who is a naked man chopped into three pieces (torso, head, and legs) and wrapped in plastic. Extra information shows this is how he died.
  • Artifact of Doom: The "Ocularis Infernum" ("Eye Of Hell"), an ancient device that is empowered by the "Black Zodiac" and would give the person who controls it the capacity to be virtually omniscient.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Ben Moss. The lawyer who liked to taunt the ghosts.
    • Cyrus Kriticos at the end. Having him orchestrated the deaths of great part of the protagonists it's quite unlikely he will be missed.
    • The Juggernaut was a Serial Killer back when he was alive as Horace Mahoney, so it's not the saddest thing in the world when he was gunned down by police.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Jackal, who died in an insane asylum.
  • Bald of Evil: Both The Hammer and the Great Child sport this.
  • Bath Suicide: The Angry Princess killed herself by slashing at her body with a butcher's knife in her bathtub. It's part of her room in the house.
  • Batter Up!: The Torn Prince carries a baseball bat.
  • Beard of Evil: Cyrus wears a pretty classy one.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When The Jackal is attacking Kathy, Kalina arrives to help.
  • Big Fancy House: Cyrus' house, a mansion that is loaded with expensive memorabilia, and completely made of transparent walls. Even without the ghosts out to kill them, the rest of the family makes a complaint about the latter ("I hope the bathroom's in the basement").
  • Black Eyes of Evil: The Angry Princess' eyes.
  • Blessed with Suck: Dennis Rafkin is a medium with the ability to detect ghosts and and instantly read minds through physical contact. He also has no control whatsoever over his powers and they tend to give him seizures.
    Dennis: I come within ten feet of anything dead, I go into seizures! I touch somebody, and a whole life full of shit just flashes in front of my eyes!
  • Blood from the Mouth: Various characters show this when dying, including Cyrus at the beginning.
  • Bloodless Carnage: You would have thought a person being cut to pieces would cover those directly below in blood.
  • Breast Attack: If a viewer can find a frame of the film where the Angry Princess is on-screen and the film holds still, it's shown that one of the slash wounds she inflicted on herself during her suicide was over a nipple.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Ben Moss finds one waiting for him as Cyrus' payment for his services as executor of his estate. Picking it up triggers a mechanism that begins to release the ghosts and very quickly leads to his death.
  • The Brute: The Juggernaut. He stands at seven feet tall and is so strong that, in life, he could tear people apart with his bare hands. He also took multiple rounds of gunfire from the police when they were killing him.
  • Bullet Time: Brief slow motion effects are shown randomly in the early parts of the movie.
  • Canis Latinicus: The device at the heart of Cyrus's plan is called the "Ocularis Infernum", which is supposed to mean "the eye of hell"... but actually means "the eye-like hell". In proper Latin, it should have been "Oculus Inferni".
  • Cassandra Truth: Arthur has hard time believing Dennis' warnings about the ghosts at first.
  • Chained by Fashion: The Hammer. Covered in chains, and with railroad spikes impaled all over his body.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Arthur attempts to break the glass surrounding the house with a chair.
  • Child by Rape: How The Dire Mother got her child.
  • Clean Cut: "Did the lawyer split?"
  • Closed Circle: Once the entire house goes into lockdown, there is no way of leaving. The location also has no cell phone reception.
  • Clothing Damage: When Kathy's attacked by the Jackal, her clothes are torn to shreds. This becomes Fridge Horrorinvoked if one learns of the Jackal's backstory...
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: The Angry Princess' suicide note, which is "I'm sorry" written in blood on the bathroom floor.
  • Creepy Basement: It's literally filled with ghosts!
  • Creepy Child: Ghost #1, the First-born Son, who is dressed as a cowboy with an arrow through his head and carries a tomahawk around. Played oddly with the Great Child, who isn't an actual child, but is a huge, 40-year-old man in a diaper holding an ax.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: A good number of the ghosts died in downright horrible circumstances. Also, Ben Moss and Kalina both meet very grisly fates.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Dennis vs. the Hammer and the Juggernaut. Guess who wins?
  • Darker and Edgier: The original 13 Ghosts could have been rated "PG" by modern movie standards. This remake features way more graphic violence, nudity and disturbing imagery.
  • Dead All Along: Inverted. Cyrus is alive the whole time.
  • Deadly Bath: How the Angry Princess died, though all the damage was self-inflicted.
  • Death by Mocking: The lawyer is killed off after he spends his entire appearance being a jackass to Cyrus and his family and insulting the ghosts from behind the protective glass. The Angry Princess later gets him bisected by a door.
  • Decomposite Character: In the 1960 film, the character Elaine was a medium, the dead uncle's female assistant, and the housekeeper. This version has the 3 separate characters of a (male) medium, the uncle's female assistant, and the housekeeper.
  • Driven to Suicide: How The Angry Princess died after she botched her Self-Surgery.
  • Driving Question: Who is the thirteenth ghost? It's Arthur, if he chooses to sacrifice himself for his children in an Act of True Love.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Hammer has this as his weapon of choice. Obviously.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The film ends with Cyrus being violently punished, the ghosts being released/crossing over, and with all the members of the Kriticos family and Maggie alive, and even the ghost of Jean seems to have found peace at the end. Likewise, Dennis finally found peace after his Heroic Sacrifice against the Hammer and the Juggernaut.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Kalina may be in on the whole thing, but she is horrified when Cyrus suggests putting Arthur's kids in danger.
    • In the Jackal's backstory, he realized how despicable his actions were and had himself committed to an asylum but eventually went insane just as rehabilitation proved impossible for his already messed up mentality. When the fire that claimed his life broke out. He refused help and decided it was better to simply die.
    • The Bound Woman as well, though she doesn't appear as often as The Jackal does. This is particularly evident after the ghosts kill Cyrus.
  • Evil Laugh / Laughing Mad: The Jackal's presence is accompanied by the sound of mad laughter.
  • Eye Scream: The Angry Princess committed suicide after an attempt at performing self-cosmetic surgery went horribly wrong and left her blinded in one eye.
  • Fainting Seer: Dennis Rafkin's visions are in Screamer form, so it's no wonder even the mildest of them leave him grabbing his head in pain.
  • Faking the Dead: Cyrus Kriticos does this to attract his nephew's family into his house.
  • Fan Disservice: The Angry Princess is completely naked, though covered in deep, self-inflicted slashes — including one right through a nipple.
  • Fictional Zodiac: The Black Zodiac, which corresponds to the thirteen ghosts needed to activate Basileus's Machine and open the Ocularis Infernum.
  • Flipping the Bird: Dennis, to the Hammer.
  • Fold-Spindle Mutilation: The Juggernaut pulls one of the capture-team in the junkyard into the engine compartment of a wreck, breaking the hapless man's spine.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The Angry Princess doesn't wear a shred of clothes, revealing her voluptuous body covered in bleeding cuts.
  • Ghostly Goals: Largely of the general vindictiveness type, but many of them are in the house specifically because they are trapped there.
  • Go Out with a Smile: In a sense. Dennis doesn't actually die smiling, but, when he later appears as a ghost, he seems a lot more content and at peace then when he was alive. This is because he no longer had to suffer the constant barrage of horrifying and grotesque imagery his psychic powers gave him.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The main characters wear special glasses to see the ghosts, in a Shout-Out to the Illusion-O gimmick of the original.
  • Gorn: Mostly avoided, although the death of Moss is a very effective and shocking example. According to the director's commentaryinvoked, the creators were surprised they managed to get away with it without using any discretion shots.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: Cyrus Kriticos must find thirteen specifically-themed spirits to power his infernal machine. His nephew Arthur would have been the thirteenth ghost, if he'd killed himself as Cyrus planned.
  • The Grotesque: The Great Child and The Dire Mother, who were circus freaks while they lived.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Ben Moss finds himself backing away from the Angry Princess until - CHOMP - he gets vertically bisected by a glass door slamming shut. We get a nice view of his frontally-sectioned head and chest when one half falls away. Leading to an awesomely funny line: "Did the lawyer split?"
  • Hates Being Touched: Dennis, and for a good reason. And according to the ghost backstories, The Jackal hates it as well after his stay in a mental hospital and might be the reason he died when the place went up in flames.
  • Haunted House: Invoked: Cyrus Kriticos builds the glass house as an infernal engine, and then deliberately moves specific ghosts into it as a power source.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Dennis fights the Hammer and the Juggernaut alone because there's only enough room in the corner behind the shield for one, so he throws Arthur behind it because he has a family to rescue.
    • Subverted with Arthur, who's led to believe that he has to perform one to save his family. At the last moment, he realizes it's a Batman Gambit by Cyrus and his death would actually fulfill his uncle's plans.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Cyrus is thrown into the spinning rings by most of the ghosts and chopped to pieces.
  • Hollywood Hype Machine: Shannon Elizabeth's appearance here owed much to the fame she earned by being in American Pie and Scary Movie.
  • How We Got Here: The opening to the movie is a panoramic montage of the old house of Arthur's family mingled with voice overs describing their lives and Jean's death before the movie begins. This scene in particular met with critical praise.
  • Human Sacrifice: The last ghost will manifest itself this way.
  • If I Can't Have You…: This is how Susan LeGrow met her end in life. After her prom date caught her kissing another boy, he bashed in the guy's head and choked her to death with his necktie.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Dennis taunts one of the ghosts in anger after one scare too many.
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.: Various takes show the ghosts' view, approaching someone.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Played straight with Bobby, averted with the First Born Son.
  • Inheritance Backlash: A man in financial trouble inherits a sprawling countryside mansion from his uncle, but the whole building is designed as a prison for deadly ghosts, and once he moves in, his uncle's sinister plan begins to unravel.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The 13 ghosts imprisoned in the mansion have various individual items relating to their former lives or circumstances surrounding their deaths.
    • The Torn Prince still has his baseball bat and car in his cell
    • The Angry Princess wields a knife she presumably cut herself with.
  • Jump Scare: Lampshaded.
    Dennis: Oh, God! I hate it when they do that!
    Maggie: Do what?
    Dennis: They wait for your to stick your FACE right up against the glass! And then give you a big, fat "boo"!
  • Karmic Death:
    • Cyrus Kriticos, who gets killed by the ghosts he captured and tried to exploit.
    • Kalina, who taunted Dennis for not realizing he was being used by Cyrus - except she was being used by him too.
    • Ben Moss is in on the whole thing and taunts the Angry Princess when he sees her inside her containment cube, and is later killed when he is bisected by glass doors while backing away from said ghost.
  • Kick the Dog: Cyrus does this at the beginning, when he slaps Dennis' medication out of his hand for no discernible reason. He also does a more extreme form of dog-kicking later, when he has Kalina squished to death between two panels of glass.
  • Large Ham:
    • Matthew Lillard, of course.
    • Cyrus (played by F. Murray Abraham) absolutely devours the scenery whenever he's on-screen.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Enforced by the house changing configurations repeatedly, separating everybody.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: As you can see, letters "t" and the first "e" in "Thirteen" have been have replaced by numbers 1 and 3 in the film's name.
  • Lock Down: How Cyrus' house becomes a Closed Circle.
  • Losing Your Head: The Torso, a ghost that wanders without a head (or legs).
  • Mad Bomber: Kalina.
    "Well, the other option is I have enough explosives to blow us back to the middle ages, of course none of us would be around to brag about it afterward."
  • Malaproper: Bobby makes a few of those.
  • Manchild: The Great Child. His mother spoiled him throughout his life, to the point that he always wore diapers and had to be spoon-fed even as he grew to adulthood and attained enormous size. In death, his whispers are of infantile sounds, and in life he could barely care for himself.
  • Mobile Maze: The glass house. The reason the house keeps changing is because it's actually a giant machine designed to open a gateway to hell, and it's been moving into its final configuration.
  • The Mole: Kalina.
  • Mr. Exposition: While taking shelter in Cyrus' office, Kalina explains the purpose of the house and the Black Zodiac, complete with Title Drop.
  • Murder Into Malevolence: Some of the ghosts weren't violent in life, but the events leading up to their demise have made them vengeful in death.
    • The Hammer: George Markeley was a blacksmith and family man. He became a Crusading Widower when his family was lynched and he later killed their murderers. However, the racist townsfolk responded by turning into a mob, chaining him to a tree, driving iron spikes into his body, cutting off his hand and replacing it with his hammer. His ghost is one of the three most violent, dangerous and deadly of the 13, second only to the ghost of a serial killer and an insane asylum patient.
    • The Torn Prince: Royce Clayton. He was a gifted, if slightly arrogant baseball player who loved to race, and he died in a drag race with a greaser who cut his car's brake lines. He sports a baseball bat as a ghost and is very aggressive with it.
    • The Angry Princess: Dana Newman. She committed suicide due to perceived imperfections, and though she's not as overly aggressive as others in the movie, she becomes threatening when in the vicinity of beautiful women, perhaps out of jealousy.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: All of the ghosts' titles. Well, most. The Withered Lover and probably The Torso were harmless.
  • Neck Snap: How the Bound Woman died.
  • "Number of Objects" Title: Antagonist Title-style.
  • Oh, Crap!: Dennis' reaction when he learns that the Jackal is loose.
    Dennis: Oh boy...
    Maggie: What?
    Dennis: That's the symbol of The Jackal.
    Maggie: What's "The Jackal"?
    Dennis: The Jackal is the Charlie Manson of ghosts. And if The Jackal's out, screw the kid! We gotta get out of this basement!
    • And almost immediately after that, Kathy has a similar reaction when she puts on the glasses and sees The Jackal standing right in front of her.
  • The Oner: The opening credits start with an idyllic scene of Kathy playing with Bobby outside while Arthur and Jean watch happily from the window. Then the camera slowly pans across while the audio of Jean's death is played over it, and the house slowly becomes more dilapidated and run down as the camera moves, before finally settling on a depressed Arthur staring out the window, with only a large brick building as his view.
  • Parental Abandonment: The Juggernaut's backstory. He was abandoned at birth by his mother and his father died years later.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Cyrus Kriticos is killed in the opening while he and his team were trying to capture a dangerous evil spirit. His mansion is left to his nephew in his will, which turns out to be a Haunted House. As it later turns out, Cyrus faked his death in order to lure his relatives there for a Human Sacrifice.
  • Power of Love: The thirteenth ghost's specialty.
  • Psychic Powers: Dennis. He's understandably less-than-pleased with having them.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Great Child, who went into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when the other freaks played a cruel joke on his mother which led her to being killed.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: When the house is destroyed, all the ghosts are free again... especially the most dangerous ones.
  • The Remake: Of the original 13 Ghosts.
  • Rage Quit: The last words of the movie has Maggie declaring she quits as she escapes the house's ruins.
  • Resurrected Murderer: While most of the ghosts were actually normal people who didn't become violent until after they came back as ghosts, the Jackal and the Juggernaut were both Ax-Crazy serial killers before their deaths. The Juggernaut in particular accumulated 40 additional kills before Cyrus and his team trapped him in the opening.
  • Rich Bitch: The Bound Woman, when she was alive.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Hammer had one in life, when a gang, led by someone who falsely accused him of stealing, killed his wife and children.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Maggie. The film ends with her angrily ranting as she walks through what remains of the manor, and it goes like this:
    Maggie: This is it for me. I'm on the first fuckin' plane back to Newark. Uh-uh. I am sorry, family, Kathy, Bobby, uncle, ghosts. I am sick of this nanny shit. I've had it. This was not in the job description. I QUIT!!!
  • Scary Black Man: The Hammer, a ghost pierced by railroad spikes and whose weapon is a hammer grafted into his arm.
  • Screamer Trailer: Used in-universe as new ghosts are revealed or about to get up to their usual shenanigans.
  • See-Thru Specs: Both movies used special glasses to see the ghosts, but in the original the audience got them, while in the remake the characters got them.
  • Serial Killer: The Juggernaut and the Jackal. The former because of his loneliness driving him insane, the other because of his sexual appetite.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Dennis wears an awesome suit throughout much of the movie.
  • Slashed Throat: Cyrus gets this at the beginning of the film... or so it seems at first.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The Torn Prince a.k.a. Royce Clayton was this in his backstory.
  • Smug Snake: Ben Moss.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Mirror Mirror" by rapper Rah Digga (who plays Maggie) plays over the end credits.
  • Spanner in the Works Cyrus is beaten in the end when Maggie (who has just woken up from being knocked out by Kalina) happens upon the manor's master controls, including the tape deck playing the chants that are controlling the ghosts, and messes with the controls. This causes the ghosts to break free and turn on Cyrus and the "Ocularis Infernum" to go into Explosive Overclocking, demolishing the house.
  • Spectacular Spinning: The central part of the "Ocularis Infernum" is a set of massive concentric razor-sharp rings that spin around like a gyroscope.
  • Spirit Advisor: Ghost Dennis, who seems much more at peace with things than he was when he was alive, briefly acts as one for Arthur, complete with a You Will Know What to Do message.
  • Sword Cane: Cyrus has one.
  • Symbolic Glass House: The Basileus Machine is a massive machine created by scholar and occultist Kalina Oretzia as a home and paranormal device. From the outside, it looks like a modernist house covered with windows. From the inside, it's composed almost entirely of sliding-glass doors and hallways lined with runes that is used to imprison the various Vengeful Ghosts he had captured over the years. The heart of the house contains the Ocularis Infernum (butchered Latin for "The Eye of Hell"), a device that, when powered by 12 ghosts that follow the Black Zodiac and a human sacrifice representing the 13th one, can give its user the ability to see the future.
  • Tempting Fate: Arthur says that there's no such thing as ghosts. Almost immediately, Kathy is attacked by the Jackal right in front of him.
  • There's No Kill like Overkill: When Horace Mahoney (The Juggernaut) broke free from his cuffs when he was arrested, the cops pumped over fifty rounds of gunfire into him, with one extra clip punched in to be certain he was dead.
  • Title by Number: The word "Thirteen" has a "13" standing in for the T and one E.
  • Title Drop: The speech about the Black Zodiac and how the "thirteenth ghost" (one created by an Act of True Love) would disrupt the Ocularis Infernum, which the other captured ghosts are meant to power up.
  • Token Good Teammate: The Withered Lover is the only ghost in the house wholly on the protagonists' side, because she is their wife and mother.
  • Toilet Horror: The bathroom looks normal from the regular human perspective. However from the ghost perspective, it is completely covered all over in blood splatter and occupied by the self mutilated Angry Princess.
  • Two-Faced: The Withered Lover and The Torn Prince, one because of fire, the other because a car accident.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Cyrus was just a crazy uncle up until the moment he passed away.
  • Unhappy Medium: Dennis Rafkin.
    "If you haven't noticed, I'm a little bit of a freak! I come within ten feet of anything dead, I go into seizures. I touch somebody, and a whole life full of shit just flashes in front of my eyes!"
  • Vehicular Sabotage: In the backstory for The Torn Prince, it's implied that the greaser who challenged Royce to that drag race cut his brake lines.
  • Vengeful Ghost: As you'd expect, the house is full of them. In-universe, Friendly Ghosts are the norm, but Cyrus specifically chose ones with spectacularly violent lives and deaths... and even they wander away and leave Arthur and his family alone once they've dealt with Cyrus and they're freed from the house.
    Dennis: See, there are ghosts around us all the time. A little ghost here, a little ghost there, no one cares! Most of them, they can't hurt us, most of them don't even want to hurt us. But there are exceptions, like this bad ass behind me. The ones who die violently stay in a tortured realm and so that's all they know.
  • Video Wills: Cyrus leaves one of these, leaving Arthur (who is out of luck and living in an apartment with his family after his house burned) with his fortune and home...
  • Western Zodiac: The movie uses its own (invented) "Black Zodiac" to account for 12 of the ghosts' presence and assign them titles.
  • Witch Hunt: The Pilgrimess died as a result of this.
  • Wolverine Claws: The Jackal prefers to use his fingernails when he's attacking.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Great Child, who was defending his mother and the Hammer, who was avenging his wife and children. The Angry Princess was a beautiful woman, but several abusive boyfriends made her believe this was not the case, to the point she attempted to do a cosmetic surgery on herself and injured her eye. Later on, she committed suicide.
  • Worst Aid: When Dennis goes into spasms, Arthur grabs him in an attempt to help him and unknowingly makes his condition worse.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Cyrus has no problem sacrificing Arthur's children (who are also his blood relatives, mind you) to complete his plans. Kalina, on the other hand, is horrified at the suggestion. When Jimbo, the carnival broker, found out what Harold aka The Great Child did, he had a mob tear him to shreds. While The Great Child isn't exactly a child, he was mentally handicapped like a 2 year old.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Dennis has this reaction in the opening scene when he sees what Cyrus is using as bait to draw out the Juggernaut.
    Dennis: A truck full of blood? You gotta be shitting me!
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Cyrus does this to Kalina.