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Movie Review

Thir13en Ghosts a.k.a. “13 Ghosts,” “13 fantasmas,” “13 Geister,” “13 fantômes,” “13 Fantasmas,” “13 duchow,” “13 kísértet,” “I 13 spettri,” “Dre13ehn Geister,” “Kolmetoista aavetta,” “Thirteen Ghosts”

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence/gore, nudity and some language

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Horror
Length:
1 hr. 28 min.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
October 26, 2001
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Brothers

MALEVOLENT SPIRITS—Where do these dangerous, hostile, and evil entities come from? Who are they? An Open Letter to Wiccan Believers—GO

amiliar spirits in the Bible

ghost

spirit

THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

What is the Occult? Answer

Featuring: F. Murray Abraham, Tony Shalhoub, Shannon Elizabeth, Kathryn Anderson, J.R. Bourne
Director: Steve Beck
Producer: Joel Silver, Dan Cracchiolo, Gil Adler, Robert Zemeckis, Gilbert Adler
Distributor: Warner Brothers

This Halloween-season remake of a 1960 film contains the elements that have become common in all types of action/thrillers: a “grabber” opening scene that makes people stop running for popcorn; plot twists; people who aren’t what they seem to be; and a climax that’s spectacular but full of holes. It also contains the standard “ghost story” false doctrines: a person with inborn powers as a psychic/medium (“Ghost”); the teaching that the spirits of some people stay on Earth after death because they’re in a state of unrest (“Ghost,” “The Frighteners”); the idea that spirits can be controlled with spells and enchantments (“The Mummy”) or with high-tech traps (“Ghostbusters”).

Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham), a “ghost-collector,” runs into some trouble while imprisoning the last of 12 specific ghosts he needs for a special project. Meanwhile Cyrus’ nephew Arthur (Tony Shaloub) is trying to cope with the death of his wife Jean (Kathryn Anderson) and raising his kids Kathy and Bobbie (Shannon Elizabeth and Alec Roberts) with the help of a nanny (Rah Digga) whose sarcasm and complaints about “crazy white people” will provide some of the comic relief. When a lawyer (J.R. Bourne) shows up and tells Arthur that he’s inherited his deceased Uncle Cyrus’mansion, it seems like a dream come true. Of course, some dreams are nightmares.

Shannon Elizabeth and Tony Shalhoub in “13 Ghosts”

When the family arrives at and inspects the mansion, they’re joined by Cyrus’ former employee, the psychic Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard); and later by “ghost-liberator” Kalina (Embeth Davidtz). The house itself consists of elaborate glass walls, inscribed with Latin enchantments, that keep opening and closing as though the house were actually a giant machine(which it is).

The acting is good at times; at other times, it seems to be deliberately hokey in order to inject a comic feel. The house sets are elaborate; the makeup and CGI graphics are good. The story itself is lame, as well as offensive.

What is the Occult? Answer

THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

Content Warnings

The violence and jump-scenes are extreme. Various angry ghosts (visible only through special glasses, similar to the Christian film “Invisible Enemies”), that had been imprisoned within the house and are now set free, attack the visitors. All of the ghosts are grotesque or mutilated in some way; one, a knife-wielding female suicide victim, is nude. The “good guys” face the constant threat of bloody death. Profanity is extreme. And there’s a lot of occult teaching woven into the storyline (the house was supposedly built from plans written by a 15th-century demon-possessed person, and is designed to be “powered by the dead”).

At least, unlike in some recent films of this type, the “good guys” eventually win (that’s NOT a recommendation to see the film).

Doctrinal Notes

There’s nothing in the Bible about the spirits of some dead humans “staying behind” on Earth. Spirits return to God (Eccl. 12:7). Eccl 9:5 says that the dead don’t know anything (of what is happening on Earth); several passages in Psalms echo that teaching. Job says that, had he been stillborn, his spirit would be with all other spirits including those of kings, counselors, princes, prisoners, masters and servants; and there’s no more Earthly trouble in that place (Job 3:11-19). Whether it’s a real-life account or a parable, Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31 emphasizes that the dead aren’t allowed to return to Earth. The only exception to this rule is found in I Sam. 28:3-20. Because God no longer answered wicked King Saul’s prayers, Saul sought out a woman with a familiar spirit (in other words, demon-possessed). That wasn’t easy, because when he was right with God he himself had gotten rid of such people in obedience to Ex. 22:18 and Deut. 18:9-12. But he found one. She didn’t object or react when he asked her to bring up Samuel for him; but when Samuel actually DID come up, she cried out, and correctly guessed that her customer was Saul. Reading the fine print, it would seem that she (like any other medium) was going to bring forth a demon spirit who would imitate Samuel; and when she saw the REAL Samuel, she knew something was happening that was out of her control. Why God made this exception to His own rule is His business, not ours. The point is that it clearly is an EXCEPTION.

The magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, visited so-called spirit mediums in every city where he toured, hoping to contact his deceased loved ones; but invariably he recognized that those “mediums” were using stage-magic, and he exposed them as frauds. We can safely assume that the same is true today; almost all such people are hucksters, a few might use demon power, but none are what they say they are. The only way to see your dead loved ones again is to meet them in the Kingdom of God.

As for the idea of controlling malevolent spirits (who are demons, not the spirits of the dead) with incantations, that’s pure witchcraft and extremely dangerous. The only word evil spirits are subject to is the Name of Jesus (Mark 16:17; Luke 10:17); and things might go badly for someone who tries to use that name but doesn’t KNOW Jesus (Acts 19:11-20). What about scientific “ghost-catching machines”? That’s so ridiculous it’s hardly worth an answer. For spiritual battles, what we need is the power of God. See Eph. 6:10-17 and 2 Cor. 10:3-4.

Recommended resource

This silly film may interest some gullible people in pursuing “curious arts” (arcane or occult knowledge). Note again the above passage in Acts 19. When the true Word of God got hold of people who already practiced such things, they gladly burned a fortune’s worth of magick books. Occult practices bind the practitioner with fear; they’re a snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Jesus sets people free (John 8:36). Which master would you rather serve?


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This movie was a great Halloween treat! Saw it on Halloween night. Very freaky and weird. Lots of violence and a few scenes of nudity. The profanity was pretty low, except for the numerous misuses of God’s name. Overall, this was a great movie, and made for a fun time at the movies. It’s produced by the same team that brought us House on Haunted Hill two years ago, and I hope they keep remaking old classic horror films. This was a good remake. There were some plot holes here and there, and at times some things just didn’t make any sense, but it really wasn’t THAT bad. Go see it, and be prepared to scream! Not for children. Recommended for ages 16 and up.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4½]
—Adam, age 19
Neutral
Neutral—I watched “13 Ghosts” because I wanted a stupid ghost movie. This one certainly fit the bill. Like any ghost movie, there are certain logical and Biblical problems. Mainly, GHOSTS DON’T EXIST. Add to that the ghosts are horribly disfigured, threatening or violent, and in at least on case, nude (shown from the front and rear). The people in this movie also curse incessently.

The movie may have been gory, but I closed my eyes whenever I thought a gory part was coming up. On the other hand this movie has an oddly pro-family theme. The father will do anything to save his children, including lose his own. The psychic in the movie, starts off morally shaky, but eventually gives his life to save others. The father and children loved their mother and are concerned for her soul. In the end, I don’t know how I feel about this movie. It had more plot than your typical horror movie, but it was a horror movie. So it did not meet Paul’s admonition to contemplate on whatever is good and true. But if you want a truly mindless scare, this might be it.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—Francine Smith, age 44
Neutral—I saw this movie the day after it was released (there’s no way I was going to see a ghost/demon movie on Halloween!). I was immediately engrossed into a fantasy world where ghosts are real and ancient demon-books were prevalent. The movie, undoubtedly had excellent special effects and great acting (I’m a big fan of Matthew Lillard). It even has a few plot twists. Overall, the movie was excellent (although not as good or scary as The Others), besides the fact that it was wholy based on a false pretense that ghosts exist in the human space-time continuim and can be confined by latin occultic spells. I think that anyone who is looking to see a good horror/thriller movie and that can distinguish between reality and fiction, who is strong in their faith would like this movie.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Mark Rickert, age 19
Negative
Negative—STUPID movie overall. Some of the special effects were good but the acting (if it can be called acting) was horrible. The script seems as if it were written by a couple teennage boys. The story made no sense, and the actors chosen to play the various parts appeared as if they needed to really cut down on the caffeine, very spastic. If you’re attention span capacity is less than two minutes, this movie will be right up your alley because the story jumps from one dead end to another that quickly. This movie dosen’t even qualify in the “rental” category, you should avoid this one.
My Ratings: [Average / 1]
—Brian C., age 33
Negative—The problem with most modern movies is that they totally focus on special effects and ignore that which made the classics—acting, storyline, dialogue and class. Thirteen Ghosts is prey to this phenomenon and falls flat on its ugly face. There’s nothing memorable about the main characters, the plot is full of holes, it’s smarmy and crude all at the same time and the so-called “comic relief” should be locked in a closet and not be allowed out until she promises not to speak. Even if this weren’t so I couldn’t recommend it to any Christian on the basis that this is not a story of God and the devil—good against evil, with good triumphing—just some unlucky people thrown in the path of a nightmare who escape and live happily ever after while the evil escapes into the night. I got nothing out of it, not even a good scare. (Grossouts, yes—you get to see people sliced in half and squished to death and ghosts with knives stuck in their heads and whatnot.) I did see four or five youngish looking girls screaming…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
—Jamie C., age 17