Night #16: 13 Ghosts (1960)


Emilio! He killed his wife, his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law with a meat cleaver. Whack! Whack! Whack! You’d better stand over there.”

Directed By: William Castle

Right before he made Homicidal, William Castle had to get this very different family friendly movie out there on release. This time the gimmick being “Illusion-O” and allowing you, the audience to see – or not see – the titular ghosts. But does it hold up at home?

Essentially…no. It was something I realised while watching. This would probably play a lot better with a crowd than it does on a sunday evening in my living room. Not least of all because I didn’t have the special ghost viewers needed.

As Castle himself helpfully explains at the start, when the screen turns a particular shade of blue, you look through one of two viewfinders. One colour will allow you to see the ghosts, and the other won’t. On that note I can’t imagine anyone choosing not to see the ghosts, but I appreciate they give you the option anyway.

So, the plot: In what is perhaps the worst gift you can leave someone, a family are left with a haunted house by an uncle, a sort of renowned ghost catcher? He has captured various ghosts from around the world and they’re now in his home anyway, in a plan that was probably not thought through all that well. He’s actually captured 11 of them, his diaries revealing that he’s the 12th ghost and that there is a mysterious 13th to come.

I do really feel they were beginning to stretch it to 13 ghosts with this one. Sure eight ghosts doesn’t have the same ring to it, but when one of your ghosts looks like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets then you need to rethink things a little bit. Kudos though for having one of the ghosts be a lion. Few films dare to tackle the idea of what happens in the animal kingdom when they die, though I imagine it would be a logistical nightmare frankly.

As an aside, there’s one scene where they break out the old Oiuja board. This is of course used time and time again by any bad horror movie, but given that the movie more or less stops so they can explain what one is, is this the first movie that uses that particular trope?

So. It’s a short one today. Usually I don’t struggle for 500 words but I literally just wrote this sentence so I would get over my self imposed word limit. It’s strange that the movie never really gets going. It just sort of starts and carries on for a bit and then ends without much really going on. It’s a movie that was purely designed around one or two ‘scare’ scenes. Sure that is true on some level about all horror movies, but like last night’s Friday The 13th Part III, having a gimmick involved usually means that everything else suffers for it.

It’s because of that that some of these movies begin to feel like ‘experiences’ rather than you know, movies. That’s all well and good, but they’re effectively just ghost trains by that point. I can appreciate them in a “oh, isn’t that hokey and fun” sort of way, but they’re certainly not things I’d want to sit again through any time soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s