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

A Nightclub Owner is One Evil Bloodthirsty Bootlegger! “Bloodrunners” review!

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In 1933, the heart of prohibition-era regulation, a corrupt Southampton, New Jersey police department shakedown the illegal alcohol distilleries and bootleggers, forcing establishments to cough up payment for police protection. Chesterfields, the hip new brass club in the sleepy town, falls into the sights of enforcement officers, an alcoholic with post-war issues, Jack Malone and his partner Sam, who want the club owner, a ruthless black bandleader named Chester, to pay for his establishment’s booze sales and bootlegging, but Chester, and his conspicuously strange henchmen, are more than just bootlegging booze runners. The nightclub is a front for a vampire den that’s draining, bottling, and shipping the blood of Southampton residents and master vampire, Chester, operates the business with his human associate, Victor Renfield. An invasion of bloodsucking gangsters seep into the affairs of not only Jack Malone’s baffled police department, but also into the resident brothel that homes Jack’s longtime beloved lover, Rosie. Only Jack, the deranged town priest, and Willie, a boy caught in the middle, stand in between the corrupt, yet still innocent, souls of Southampton and the terrorizing dark forces that scratch at the town’s door.
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Hybrid genre film “Bloodrunners” blends a spin of classic tale vampirism with early 20th-century gangsters that concocts a bad batch of cinematic bamboozlement. Filmed in West Chester and Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, director Dan Lantz, who helmed adult film star Alexis Texas in “Bloodlust Zombies,” does construct a marvelous speakeasy, prohibition-era world out of the greater Philadelphia region’s most popular and historical locations. From the period piece costuming to the acquisition of an antique 1921 Ford Model A car, Lantz’s ability to build a story around such facets on pocket-sized finances that help bring 80 years past back to the present can certainly compete with settings of many big-budgeted Hollywood productions. Being a previous recent resident of West Chester, the landscape was convincingly alien to this reviewer. Co-star Michael McFadden co-wrote the script with Lantz and, together, they input a girth of 1920s to 1930s terminology and slang into a script that can’t quite coherently string along a narrative that works under cut and dry filmmaking involving anemic mains characters.
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Alongside McFadden, the “Law & Order: SVU,” or rather from one of my personal favorite films from 1994 entitled “Surviving the Game” co-starring Gary Busey and Rutger Hauer, star Ice-T takes on being a master, bootlegging vampire when he’s not busting heads of pedophiles on the streets of New York City. Ice-T maintains a hip hop persona that doesn’t translate well toward the 1930’s, but the legendary gangsta rapper has kept the hip hop schtick throughout this career and never in a hundred roles, eighty-seven credited roles to be exact, would I imagine Ice-T to break from a moneymaking image. Like his co-star, McFadden comforts himself in familiar roles that pigeonholes his career made up of authoritative figures such as cops or gangsters with examples including being a gangster in Fox’s hit television series, the Batman spinoff “Gotham” and also portraying the notorious real life gangster, Jimmy Hoffa, in the upcoming Tigre Hill film “American Zealot.” Then, there’s Philadelphia native Peter Patrikios. Patrikios’ phenomenal take on the iconic Renfield character is a break in the monotony highlight, reviving Renfield back to a sophisticated right hand man instead of a relapsing bumbling aid for his master’s whims of daylight chores and being more memorable than the “Bloodrunners'” main headliners. Airen DelaMater, Chris James Boylan, Julie Elk, Kerry McGann, Jack Hoffman, John Groody, and Dan McGlaughlin round up “Bloodrunners'” roster.
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When attempting to examine “Bloondrunners'” vampiric special effects, only this descriptive phrase comes to the forefront of my mind: “Bloodrunners” pits vampire gangsters against crooked cops in a “Matrix” styled, slow-motion action-horror. While that sounds rather exciting, selling these particular creatures of the night didn’t enlighten a firm stance that the modern vampire is alive (well, technically undead) and well. Instead, the Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden story stays the routine course that fills the overstuffed and out of control vampire barrel that desperately requires genre damage control from the first moment a scofflaw vamp enters the scene. Vampire action films haven’t been popular since “Blade,” unless adapted to television as in the case of FX’s “The Strain,” and “Bloodrunners” doesn’t fit the bill, boozing in as a blasphemous contemporary day vampire film.
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Paoli, PA based production company Impulse-FX delivers Dan Lantz’s latest schlock horror “Bloodrunners” with Speakeasy Films releasing the film out to the world and landing on retail shelves March 7th. The trailer held promise with vigorous action stamina, but, in the end, just turned out to be a well-edited trailer for an action-horror-thriller that needed a touch of stability in the story. Portions of the story are deemed absolutely unnecessary to motivate the characters or are place mats interjected to connect characters, such as Jack Malone’s encounter with a specific German vampire who just coincidently happens to be one of the henchmen in Ice-T’s vampire gang. The Speakeasy Films dual format 2-disc, Blu-ray and DVD combo, presents the film 1080p widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio in which the Blu-ray is on a AVC 26Mps disc. The image was a bit shaky under the compression, fizzing at times, more so during darker scenes, that outlined compression artifacts that remarked upon lighter shades of grey and black. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is fine through the 95 minute runtime. Jack Malone’s raspy gangster voice doesn’t become muddled and Ice-T’s epic hip hop swag comes through without even a hitch. The soundtracks fades in and out quite a bit over the LFE, during the “Matrix” slow-motion, that leaves much unbalanced when the soundtrack becomes warranted. Bonus features are nice, including a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, filmmakers commentary, and an official trailer. In conclusion, “Bloodrunners” teeters on the edge of being a full bodied beverage that never really carbonates into a high-alcoholic contestant in being a good, modern day vampire thriller.

Watch “Bloodrunners” on Amazon Prime!