To Be EVIL, You Must Capture EVIL! “Thir13en Ghosts” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Scream Factory)

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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.
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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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!

“Thir13en Ghosts” on Blu-ray on Amazon.com

Half-Woman, Half-Machine, All Evil! “SheBorg” review!


Brought before an intergalactic sentencing, a chaos-driven cyborg faces extreme persecution for committing heinous acts across of destruction and death amongst the galaxy, but desperately escapes on a small shuttle pod aimed directly for the planet Earth. The cyborg craves massive amounts of energy to contact others of it’s species for world domination and also needs to feed off of animal flesh to sustain. The local anarchist Dylan and her friend Eddie team up with a alien enthusiast and a provincial cop to thwart human annihilation as the cyborg assimilates the townsfolk into it’s own flesh hungry minions, doing the bidding of constructing a solar system reaching power source to create a space antenna. The world’s hope relies on a pair of anarchy subversives to stop a monstrous sheborg who believes chaos will provide for planetary obliteration.

Its Bloggin’ Evil has been around the bush a few times with director Daniel Armstrong, a name known very well here by previously reviewing two of the filmmakers films under his Strongman Pictures label, the 2015 wrestling-sploitation “Fight Like A Girl” and the slasher on blades “MurderDrome” from 2013, and there has been much appreciation for the ballistic, ass-kickin’ carnage and indie horror mayhem Armstrong is so strongly passionate about in his films. The 2016 “SheBorg” is no different as the film revels in many of the same feral totalities. The Australian writer-director favors the 80s-90s science fiction and horror cultural elements for not only his earlier works but also for “SheBorg,” cherry-picked specifically for the mechanical madness. From “Star Trek,” to “Ghostbusters,” and to “Back to the Future,” “SheBorg” affectionately homages these films through the dialogue in an explicitly melee narrative that oozes with crazy, feasts on the flesh, and gorges on heartily on dismembering and assimilating all in a path to geek fandom.

Dylan lives to subvert the establishment, even if that means derailing her politically obsessed, sorry for excuse father, Mayor Jack Whiteman, and the self-indulged agitator is played by Whitney Duff alongside “MurderDrome’s” Daisy Masterman as Dylan’s best Kung Fu knowing mate Eddie. Duff and Masterman are a solid budding duo who can expel eccentricity and calmness as a single, combative unit against an seemingly unstoppable mechanism of man killing, the Sheborg. The mechanical alien is mechanically performed by another “MurderDrome” casted and “Fight Like A Girl” actress Emma-Louise Wilson. Wilon’s robotic coldness sounds actually very Russian in performance, as if the Eastern Europeans were gearing up for war with killer, flesh eating cyborgs, but Wilson’s contrast to the uncouth Duff and Masterman tagteam is comedic bliss that symbolisms freedom over tyrannical subjection. Sean McIntyre, Mark Entwistle, Louise Monnington, Jasy Holt, and Tommy Hellfire fill in the rest of the “SheBorg” cast.

Labeled as a Neo-Pulp sci-fi, horror film, “SheBorg” encapsulates the essence of a schlocky B-horror, charmed with two-bit practical and visual effects. Yellow alien blood sprays and cascades like neon Kool-Aid, the assimilated have oversized and gaudy optical lens over one eye, and there’s also some eye popping, heart ripping, and dog eating gore to appease every facet of a modern sci-fi horror. Once titled “SheBorg Prison Massacre” and then retitled to “Sheborg Puppy Farm Massacre,” Armstrong drops the ancillaries and simply presents his Daisy Duke-cladded killing machine film as “Sheborg” that continues a trend, whether intentional and ill-conceived from selective viewings on my part, of having a heroine in the lead role, such as “Fight Like a Girl” and “MurderDrome” with the latter involving an all-woman roller derby gang. Armstrong’s seemingly trademarking his films with rebellious women, whom are at odds with the world around them, and are coming out on top hauling away being more of a kick-ass warrior than before the a nemesis made the scene.

“SheBorg” is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of WildEye Releasing and MVDVisual. The 1080p resolution in a widescreen 1.85:1 presentation release has an underwhelming image quality. Details flutter sporadically in the woodsy locale in and around the puppy farm and night scenes have coagulated blotches of the unsharp nature. A few sequences turn out brilliantly poetic like when SheBorg frightfully exits through a mist-cloaked, open aired windshield of one of her three junkers turned into a makeshift solar system communicator. The 5.1 Stereo works for the budget, but while the punk rock score by KidCrusher befitted the anarchist lead, syncing with the rest of the film was far from being symbiotic. Dialogue was clear enough and ambience was fine, even if it was slightly over-exaggerated. Bonus features include a medium-length Behind the Scenes documentary that has engrained interviews with director Daniel Armstrong and selective cast; the BTS-feature is more tell all of Armstrong’s visionary mechanics and where he pulls inspiration from. There are also music videos and trailers. Resistance is futile as “SheBorg” is a must-see cybernetics battle royal in the realm of Ozploitation.