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!
In the year 2022, orbital satellites carry nuclear missiles and maintain flight patterns around the moon. When a satellite repair ship, known as a “refab” ship called Spaecore 1, attempts to intercept a satellite for maintenance, the system wide computer goes into an unexplained power failure that jeopardizes communications, life support, and navigation. Drifting helpless toward sector Centrus B-40, the dark side of the moon, all hope will be lost within 24 hours unless operations can be restored, but a mysterious spacecraft, NASA’s Discovery shuttle, heads toward them and docks onto their outer hull without so much of a hail from the shuttle. Captain Flynn and Lt. Giles investigate a seemingly abandoned ship until coming across a dead body of a presumed missing NASA astronaut, eviscerated with an opening left in a perfect triangle as the cause of death, and that opens the door to more questions than answer as a sinister presence boards their ship, pursuing damnation for their souls.
Just think, in two more years, weapons of mass destruction satellites will loom just above fluffy white clouds, ready to mushroom clouds out of targets with a 10-ton yield; at least that’s what director D.J. Webster and the screenwriters, identical twins Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes, modeled the future when conjuring up this delectable Sci-Fi horror film approx. 20 years ago. With special effects models and techniques that withstand against powerhouse space films, such as from the immaculate effects of Alien franchise, “The Dark Side of the Moon” becomes more than just a 1973 Pink Floyd album title Fabricated out of warped creativity of old and new concepts with a Biblical horror base that only the 1990’s could loosely spin into an hour and 27 minute feature, for many of the filmmakers involved, “The Dark Side of the Moon” credits as their first taste of a feature length, large scale production, especially with the mainly music video director D.J. Webster, who loves his closeups, and director of photography Russ T. Alsobrook, as they auto clicks into a team that seemingly have experience of seasoned veterans or, perhaps, spent some secretive, unlogged time in space. Who knows, but the outcome ruminates about the dark side of religion and how each of us deal with it internally.
When mullets and giant framed glasses are afoot, the late 80’s, early 90’s filming era is beyond evident with interestingly gritty characters lined up for an evil figure eager to knock them down and, of course, the story’s lead character is the mullet sporting pilot named Lt. Giles Stewart who is unwittingly thrust into the fast track of a hero’s lane. Giles’s atheism framework has a pleasant sardonicism about it when face-to-face with the immortal conqueror of his ship and crew. Will Bledsoe paints Giles as such as faithless space pilot, bound to duty, and willing to do anything to just not save himself, but others. One of the only recognizable faces, at least for myself, in the cast is John Diehl. The “Stargate” and “The Shield” television actor is best at being a wild card in turmoil situations and as shipmate Phillip Jennings, the same can be expected without being utterly conventional or warrant any kind of typecast label. Another actor to note is Alan Blumenfeld as the ship’s panicky Dr. Dreyfuss Steiner. Blumenfeld, who had a role in the best Jason Voorhees film, in my humble opinion, “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, is once again stalked by a larger-than-life villain while maintaining a profusely sweaty persona that’s symbolically intended to be true, unadulterated fear. As a whole, the cast is amazing regardless of some first time filmmakers at the helm, rounding out with “Re-Animator’s” Robert Sampson as the ship’s Capt. Flynn, Joe Turkel from the first “Blade Runner,” “Blood Frenzy’s,” and overall erotic thriller goddess, Wendy MacDonald, stunt man (“Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, “Army of Darkness”) Ken Lesco, and another “Friday the 13th” actor, Camilla More, or Tina from “The Final Chapter,” as the stationary sexy, ship’s onboard computer-robot named Lesli – think on the same lines as Mother from “Alien,” but in the flesh.
What makes “The Dark Side of the Moon” very interesting is the film being an unofficial precursor to other science fiction horror films like “Event Horizon” that was released roughly seven years later. Space as this gateway to Hell concept is sorely under-appreciated and underutilized. Space is already vastly frightening to begin with and by adding a devilish abyss aspect to it makes the idea an absorbingly scary thought. What’s also fascinating is the Hayes brother. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is the brothers’ roots film; the proverbial patient zero that spread successful movie writing careers for the twins, spawning turn of the century horror with the remake of “House of Wax” that saw the on-screen death of Paris Hilton, had “Underworld” star Kate Beckinsale track down a killer in Antarctica in “Whiteout,” and they penned “The Conjuring” that constructed its very own universe.
“The Dark Side of the Moon” comes in at #2 on the Unearthed Films’ Classics label distributed MVDVisual. The newly restored 4K transfer of the Wild Street Pictures production is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, region A Blu-ray release. Surprisingly sharp despite consistent low-lit scenes and not as washed like previous VHS versions, this restoration fine tunes the nitty-gritty specifics needed for proper presentation that doesn’t falter from heavy digital noise or blotch artifacts and shows no signs of enhancing The English language LPCM 2.0 audio track is strapping for a dual channel format. Dialogue pronounced clearly, ambient spaceship clinks and clunks create atmospheric range and depth, and the relentless brooding score by “Society’s” Mark Ryder and Phil Davies delivers shuddering spinal-tingles without being monotonously dull. Bonus features include a commentary with executive producer Paul and Unearthed Films’ Stephen Biro, interviews with Alan Blumenfeld, FX artist R. Christopher Biggs, and stuntman Chuck Borden, plus vintage audio track, trailers, photo gallery, and a insert booklet that dives into about the production and the cast. All packed into a nice little slipcover package. “The Dark Side of the Moon” pioneers into the future of space horror as a good ole dread-inducing fear-monger of the great expanse, deserving this Unearthed Films’ release, hands down.
Set in Rome of 1912, a newly constructed wax museum, under a mysterious alchemy artist known as Boris Volkoff, stirs controversy with the showcasing of the world’s most grisly and notorious murder scenes. Two brothel customers’ debate result in the one challenging the other to spend the night at the curated museum of horror without having an ounce of fleeting fear. The next morning, the man has been found, apparently keeling over in fright, and the police are baffled, but something more sinister is afoot when Sonia, a young costume designer with a horrific past as the sole witness in the gruesome death of her mother and father in Paris 1900, becomes employed at the museum to costume the wax figures and faints when the scene of her parents’ brutal death is recreated as the museum’s new showpiece. Sonia and a reporter closely examine the museum when more people begin disappearing off the street, people who have ties with the beautiful costume designer, and learn the waxed creations are much more underneath their plastic-lifelike skin.
Before his untimely death, the Godfather of (Italian) Gore, Lucio Fulci, had been cooperating on a semi-quasi remake of Vincent Price’s 1953 thriller “House of Wax,” based on the Gaston Leroux’s novel, alongside fellow iconic Italian horror director Dario Argento (“Suspiria”) in a comeback collaboration for Fulci, but the entitled “The Wax Mask” film was evidently delayed partly in because of Fulci’s death. “The Wax Mask” was handed over by Argento, who was producing, to special effects guru Sergio Stivaletti (“Cemetery Man,” “The Church”) and months after Fulci’s death, a finished product shared very similar traits to the Godfather of Gore’s style craftily blended with more modern approaches to filmmaking was released to the public. Though tailored more toward the interests of gory special effects, Stivaletti’s 1997 film is dedicated to Fulci with the implementation of many of the director’s popular trademarks, including closeups on various eye expressions and zoom-ins on gore and the weapons before their fateful strikes, while also basking in strong bright colors in the midst of shadowy cinematography that’s typical of the giallo genre.
In such a crimson world, an elegant performance by Romina Mondello, who stars as the orphaned Sonia, has the Rome born actress bring beauty, innocence, and charm to the macabre that harbors contrasting arguments against undermining marred antagonists and she provides a breath of aesthetic liveliness amongst a narrative that surrounds itself in capturing beauty in inanimate wax figures. “Cemetery Without Crosses'” Robert Hossein embraces the enigmatic museum curator, Boris Volkoff, with struggling internal black aspirations that involve his recently acquired employee, Sonia, and Houssein is able to turn off and on that switch of longing and menacing, playing the hand of the character superbly to keep audiences guessing his true intent. Volkoff’s faithful assistant and exhibit creator, Alex, embodies creepy and morbid attributes wonderfully contributed by a relatively unknown Umberto Balli. The trifecta cast sells the ghastly science fiction that slowly builds toward the transformation of “The Wax Mask” from classic giallo to sensational mad science Gothicism with a boost of euro trashiness that’s more relative to the work of Jesús Franco or Joe D’Amato. Riccardo Serventi Longhi (“Symphony in Blood Red”), Valery Valmond, Gabriella Giorgelli (“The Grim Reaper”), and Gianni Franco (Dario Argento’s “The Phantom of the Opera”) round out the cast.
Stivaletti’s toolbox of special effects celebrate in the practicality that escalates when the cloaked killer’s metal claw literally rips terror through the hearts and souls of characters, but the glossy composite imagery thwarts realism and cheapens the already cheesy Euro horror with a laughable fire set ablaze and a slew of lampoon electricity while half naked women are strapped to a barbaric mechanized chair. The cut-rate composite won’t ruin a guilty pleasure viewing and won’t blast apart an arguably respectable adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel, but the script, co-written between Argento, Fulci, and “The House of Clocks'” penning collaborator Daniele Stroppa, does pull from other, interestingly enough, inspirations that one wouldn’t think would be genre compatible. The action-packed finale of James Cameron’s 1984 pre-apocalyptic, time-traveling cyborg blockbuster, “The Terminator,” makes an unexpected appearance with an endoskeleton villain donning some familiar and memorable moments from one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.
“The Wax Mask” greatly resembles Italian horror cinema from the 1970s and 1980s spawned in the late 90s, a superb feat for a director more aligned in vocational special effects, but the jaded historical background accompanying the film places a stain on whether Lucio Fulci had much to do with the project at all. Much is speculated that Argento and Stroppa re-wrote Fulci’s original script after his death, removing much of Fulci’s atmospheric flair and adding more gore, but in the end, “The Wax Mask” instabilities are overshadowed by great practical effects, an engaging storyline, and a roster of flavorful characters. The One 7 Movies and CAV Distributing Blu-ray release is presented in 1080p. The widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio is the not the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but doesn’t constrain the image. The MPEG-4 AVC codec emits a bit of shakiness under the compression, suggesting a lower bitrate, but the One 7 Movies’ release is the best, sharpest looking transfer of the original source material with natural coloring on skin tones, vibrant shades of various colors, and shadows being exquisitely black. Four audio options are available from the English and Italian Surround 5.1 tracks to the English and Italian Stereo tracks with no accessible English or Italian subtitles in the static setup menu. Extras are slim with a handheld camera behind-the-scenes that’s solely in Italian. “The Wax MasK” is an ambitious Gothic hybrid horror that cements the memory of Lucio Fulci, pleases the gore of Dario Argento, and showcases the talents of debut director Sergio Stivaletti.
When I see the name James Wan, I think Saw and thats about all that comes to mind. But I do know of, have seen of, and have enjoyed much of Wan’s work. Dead Silence was a solid sophomore film while Insidious gave Wan a second look by not only fans but by studios as well, proof is in the Insidious sequel. Death Sentence strays away from his horror roots yet still delivers a dark and gritty atmosphere and one of my favorite Kevin Bacon movies. Also, Wan is part of the R-rated, low-budget group of filmmakers called the “Spat Pack” which has pretty much dissolved now, but this group consists of Eli Roth, Alexander Aja, Rob Zombie, Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall, Greg McLean, Robert Rodriguez, and Leigh Whannell.
Today, Wan’s latest venture has been given a trailer and was released to us. The Conjuring which tells the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who were hired to help a family against a terrorizing dark spirit in their farmhouse. Sounds simple enough, right? The trailer itself leaves a good taste in your mouth and doesn’t market itself as your run of the mill haunted house film. I, for one, am excited about The Conjuring and movies about hauntings are low on the totem poll for this guy. Lili Taylor, whom I haven’t seen in a movie since…well…1999’s remake of The Haunting, stars along side her on screen husband Ron Livingston (Office Space) and paranormal investigators played by Vera Farmiga (Orhpan) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious).
I’d like to say a little something about the spirit in the trailer; though too early to tell how the film will play out, the trailer makes the spirit seem playful yet personally dark. The trailer builds the suspense with long, still, and quiet scenes – which makes every scene on high tension terms.
Warner Brothers is behind James Wan and his film which is penned by Chad and Carey Hayes – the duo behind the remake of House of Wax so we have quite of bit of Vincent Price homagers behind The Conjuring. July 19th is the release date and I’m holding this film in high regard. Can’t wait! #theconjuring http://theconjuring.warnerbros.com/