Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring||F. Murray Abraham, Tony Shalhoub, Shannon Elizabeth, Kathryn Anderson, J.R. Bourne|
|Producer||Joel Silver, Dan Cracchiolo, Gil Adler, Robert Zemeckis, Gilbert Adler|
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?