A maniacal and obsessed ghost hunter, Cyrus Kriticos, traps 12 tormented and violent spirits with the help of an avaricious, but anguished psychic, Dennis Rafkin, but when trapping the last ghost, the worst of the worst, a barbaric mass murder in life and in death named Juggernaut, Cyrus is killed in the process. His death leads to the inheritance of a one-of-a-kind house to his widowed nephew, Arthur, and his two children who are barely scraping by after the unexpected fiery death of their beloved wife and mother. When they enter what seemingly feels like a godsend house, immaculately structured entirely out of glass and metal, they find themselves trapped inside after tripping a series of mechanism that turn the isolated and elegant abode into a labyrinthic machine. Stuck inside with Arthur and his family are Dennis Rafkin and a ghost friendly liberator, Kalina Oretiza, who explain that the house is actually an evil machine with a goal of opening the eye to Hell and that the ghosts, imprisoned in the basement, are components that are being set free one-by-one in order to fulfill the ritual.
In the world of remakes, only a select few ever surpass the original. In fact, on rare occasions, do remakes actually replace the original due in part to being beyond respectful as well as masterful amongst critics and genre fans that have bestowed the reimagining an untouchable rendition to which no one can find anything wrong with it; this films include John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” and Chuck Russell’s “The Blob,” with Zack Synder’s “Dawn of the Dead” and Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead” receiving well-deserved honorable mentions, because let’s face it, topping George Romero’s original work can be said to be blasphemous slander. What about those remakes in between? Those just above the pile of awfulness that generally makeup remakes? I consider Steve Beck’s “Thir13en Ghosts” to be one of this mid-level remake films that registers well with fans, but on the flips side of that coin, doesn’t ascend to total prominence over its predecessor. Written by longtime Full Moon Entertainment writer Neal Marshall Stevens (“Hideous!” and “The Killer Eye”) and Richard D’Ovidio (“The Call”), “Thir13en Ghosts” is a 2001 near-total rework of the 1960 William Castle directed and Robb White scripted “13 Ghosts” that used gimmicks like 3D specter glasses to draw audiences into the theater. “Thir13en Ghosts” was the second film after another William Castle remake, “House on Haunted Hill,” of the newly formed, William Castle nod-to, Dark Castle Entertainment, a division of Joel Silver’s Silver Productions formed by Silver, Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”), and Gilbert Adler (“Bordello of Blood”) that honed initially on producing stylishly modern takes on classic gothic horror, such as “Ghost Ship,” the remake of “House of Wax,” and “Orphan.” What came out of this collaboration between Steve Beck and Dark Castle Entertainment is a complete dismantling of the wood paneling and lament flooring story for a modern marvel to emerge of unique terror that hasn’t been duplicated since.
“Thir13en Ghosts” has an impressive, if not all-star, cast with diverse range of styles and experiences that it’s almost dumbfounding on how the filmmakers were able to contract some of these talents, including F. Murray Abraham, who has had an already eclectic credit list with “Amadeus,” “Surviving the Game,” and Mimic, and Tony Shalhoub who hand standout performances in “Addams Family Values,” “Men in Black,” and “Galaxy Quest.” Abraham and Shalhoub bring a sense of classical and methodological structure in a stark contrast between rationality and irrationality built upon an indifference of solitude and a sense of family. Then, there’s the comedic relief in the midst of danger, Matthew Lilliard (“Scream”) as the suffering psychic who uses his wit tongue to spur others and introducing hip-hop artist, Rah Digga, in one of her only motion picture performances to alleviate suspension with more tongue-and-cheek moments. Lilliard and Digga offer up two different comic styles while sustaining the underlying severity of being trapped inside an evil machine full of violent ghosts. Shannon Elizabeth, who we all know by now as the stunning “American Pie” girl, Nadia, or as I know her as the unfortunately raped and murder victim of a killer snowman in “Jack Frost,” plays Arthur Kriticos daughter, Kathy, who still a fresh faced newcomer to Hollywood despite being a hot commodity after her topless role in “American Pie.” The superb support roles don’t end there with notable roles from JR Bourne (“Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning”), Matthew Harrison, Alec Roberts, John DeSantis, and EmBeth Davidtz, Sheila from “Army of Darkness,” as the ghost liberator.
It’s hard to believe that “Thir13en Ghosts” is nearly 20-years old. I still recall my 17 year old self sitting in for a theatrical showing, remembering the opening gargoyle growling as the Dark Castle Entertainment logo reveals itself during the opening title credits, and coming out of the maze-like, gory-ghost film having experienced something special, even if then I didn’t understand why, only to years later realize that I’ve never seen something like “Thir13en Ghosts” before in my life. How does a remake reinvent itself so much that it can separate itself from the original film while also beguile with fresh ideas and no take a slew of browbeating chirps from those who holdfast that the original is the one and only? Most remakes cheaply throw gore to the wind, adding buckets of blood in hopes to satisfy horror buffs, but what winds up happening is that we ultimately get bored, having experienced blood and guts from singular storied films. “Thir13n Ghosts’” premise isn’t the only worthwhile experience that deserves praise, but also the spectacular production design by Sean Hargraves that thrusts the glass house concept into new heights with the house actually becoming an interestingly steampunk character itself and the prosthetic effects from a team spearheaded by a trio of the best special makeup effects artists in horror today, such as Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Gregory Nicotero., turning ghoulish encounters to ghastly visions that convey truly a tormented soul in the 12 ghosts. Though the story itself isn’t perfect, flawed at times with static character development and a few plot holes involving the ghosts and sequences of events, “Thir13en Ghosts” remains a cult favorite gaslit by frightening imagery, a solid cast, and unforgetting production design that started 21st century horror off brazenly strong.
Collect all “Thir13en Ghosts” on the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory sheathed in a cardboard slip cover and has a reverse artwork liner that has the original poster artwork and new vivid illustration by Joel Robinson. Presented in a 1080p, high definition widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm negative, “Thir13en Ghosts” shares a consistent image and vibrancy layer with the DVD version with an enhanced color stability. No edge enhancement or cropping adjustments rendered or any other blemishes to speak of, but the softer details could have been sharpened to gave a hard edge around the non-spiritual energy. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 boosts the already hefty soundtrack that’s full of explosions and ghostly swooshes and moaning hums, finished off with grand, orchestra soundtrack by John Frizzell It’s been said that audience had to excuse themselves from the film due in part to the overbearing noise coupled with the strobe-like imagery, but the overall audio and visuals are a combined one-two punch of sensory power that works well. The Scream Factory release has new interviews in the bonus material, including sit downs with actors Shannon Elizabeth, Matthew Harrison, and John DeSantis and producer Gilbert Adler. There’s also a audio commentary with director’s Steve Beck, production designer Sean Hargraves, and special effects artist Howard Berger. There’s also an in-depth look at the creation of the thirteen ghosts in a small featurette, their backstory profiles, and the theatrical trailer. However you want to call it, whether it’s “Thir13en Ghosts,” “Thirteen Ghosts, or “13 Ghosts,” this new century remake still holds up to today’s horror lot with spellbinding phantom pandemonium in a glass box!
London’s infamous 19th century serial killer, Jack the Ripper, was never caught and the specialty knives he used to fillet his victims were never recovered, but in the darkly lit maze of an abandoned Victorian warehouse located in present day London, the spirit of the mysterious murderer of prostitutes lingers within the bricked up walls or so goes the urban legend. Six aspiring writers are invited to a screenwriters workshop at the Victorian warehouse for inspiration and orchestrating the event is an eccentric arts professor Richard Wise. The goal is write the most horrifying, potentially box-office busting horror story for a chance at penning a major movie deal. One of the six writers, Ruth, had received an enigmatic case full of old knives prior to her invitation, placing inspiration in her to write a terrifying script involving Jack the Ripper. When the knives go missing, the writers become trapped inside the warehouse as their involuntarily actions result in the return of Jack the Ripper to continue his unholy work of slaughter and the only way to stop him from carving his way into their ill-fated story is to solve the mystery of why they were specifically chosen to attend this particular workshop.
“Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper” is the interesting first installment of a British horror movie franchise from writer-directors Ian Powell and Karl Ward. The co-filmmakers reach into the 19th century to bring Jack the Ripper into the present day, but Jack’s not the same; He’s a variant of him old self that involves the murderer being a pissed off malicious ghost in a concoctive tale that blends the modern-day remakes of “House on Haunted Hill” and “13 Ghosts” from near the turn of the century. Other than a physically present, if not more of a flickering presence, manifestation with a link to his prey of frightened writers, I won’t delve too much into details of Jack’s return and what he means to accomplish in hopes of not spoiling the story for you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that won’t be a problem. The independent film attempts very little to bring the Victorian era swag into the fold. Even Jack the Ripper solely dons a dark wide brim hat and cape, that loosely associates him with the time period. Powell and Ward focus more on the group of bewildered writers and their conflicting dynamics on how they deal with their predicament – i.e. one character is very poignant on the dangers while one other brushes off superstitions and unnatural occurrences – but the pair of filmmakers fail to work the character Professor Wise into the mayhem and by not attributing purpose to the character, the professor inarguably becomes one of the many loose ends of a sunk horror franchise before it’s even set afloat.
The 2016 film stars Kelby Keenan as Ruth, the only character to have any damn sense, but won’t just leave even though she repeatedly states how much danger their in. Kelby’s the lead actress with Josh Myers (“Zombie Diaries 2”), Georgia Mcguire, Kunjue Li (who oddly enough have a bit part on an unrelated Jack the Ripper television series entitled “Ripper Street”), Jack Brown, and Ian Weichardt (“Freak of Nature”) to round out the group of writers. Together, their plight doesn’t come across potently enough; instead, Thomas Thoroe’s Professor Richard Wise strew them through the warehouse corridors in an unbelievable performance of the professor not having a clue about the turmoil that’s afoot. Jack the Ripper goes virtually silent, much like a ghost should, under the unkempt performance of Andrew Shire. In short, the cast haphazardly walks through the storyboards, overkilling reactions and not reacting enough during called upon scenes to the relative cause of action.
So far, in this review, you might conclude that Powell’s and Ward’s inaugural franchise film may be a dud and not spawn sequels. Honestly, I personally would like to see closer for the open ended characters and story; however, I preferably would not like Powell and Karl in the director chairs. Their style could only be described as spastic with way too many edited in interjections of arbitrary spook house filler. The body of work has the sheer tenacity of being more like a 92-minute music video that’s abundantly chorused with haunted house ambiance. Literally, interlaced cuts made more than half the film, barely leaving any story for the actors, and the back-and-forth edits could crisscross your eyes into a strabismus.
Breaking Glass Pictures and Magic Mask Pictures Limited present “Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper” on DVD home vide. Usually the pride of indie LGBTQ films, Breaking Glass Pictures has a fair share of horror as well and, typically, do right by the release. In this one particular, the DVD is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio that’s very detailed. The color hues are a bit dull, more so grey, than hoped. The English language stereo dual channel stereo track had no part in being saved. Layers upon layers of unfinished audio snippets run rampart throughout to the point where you can pick out the flaws at will. Dialogue is wish-washy with the full power of the voice being reduced to no more than a mumble of hearing every other third word from every character. The DVD does come with some special features, such as clips and interviews in a segment entitled “Lights, Camera, Speed!,” “Behind the Walls” is a short featurette about the film, and you can also play the film with commentary from the directors and cast. The film is dedicated to the late Khan Bonfils, who had a minor part in the introduction, after his untimely death on a separate project. “Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper” is clunky at best. Poor Jack couldn’t rise from the dead to reclaim his infamy in this ghost show of scatterbrained storytelling.