The latest horror retread adapted from the portfolio of kitsch king William Castle boasts exactly one great performance. Too bad it's by a house. The home of evil "ghost collector" Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham, taking over the scumbag-with-a-mustache duty discharged by Geoffrey Rush in 1999's "House on Haunted Hill" remake) is a marvelous construction of shifting gears, sliding panels and glass walls engraved with Latin spells. The structure would be a pleasure to survey were it not inherited by Kriticos' family, a clan so obnoxious we find ourselves rooting for the place to finish them off the moment they step inside.
To be more precise, that dirty deed falls to the restless, violent phantoms Kriticos has imprisoned inside the house -- a battery of bargain-basement apparitions who look like Kiwanis Club members decked out as the cast of "Hellraiser" for a charity Halloween hayride. The murders that ensue are grisly and off-putting, yet too infrequent to stem the ongoing hemorrhage of hard-mugging "performances" and putrid one-liners. "Is that half the lawyer?" one human rubbernecker asks, spying the sliced-in-two remains of Kriticos' attorney.
As in Castle's original "13 Ghosts," our heroes must don special glasses to see the supernatural forces they're up against. (There always seem to be too few pairs in circulation to keep everyone out of jeopardy.) Castle issued mass-produced versions of the specs to his audiences to let them in on the fun, and to provide an honorable out for the easily upset: Looking through a blue gel rendered the spooks invisible. Denied such an escape clause by this penny-ante remake, the more near-sighted (and fortunate) among us can be heard whipping off our own prescription cheaters to make the entire picture disappear.
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