Thir13en Ghosts (2001): The title is program in this attempt by Steve Beck to remake one of William Castle’s weakest films. I don’t know why you’d want to remake that one, but here it is.
Becks’s film is not very good, featuring music video-style ghosts not doing
terribly much beyond hunting the main characters through corridors. To be fair,
these are rather better looking corridors than usual in corridor runners but the
decision to keep the body count low in a film that features nothing else beyond
the ghost effects to keep the audience awake seems rather dubious to me. There’s
really not much else to say here: Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham doesn’t
put any effort into his villainous turn, the rest of the cast is okay, and
there’s nothing memorable at all going on.
Goldstone (2016): Ivan Sen’s sequel to his Australian rural
crime movie Mystery Road on the other hand is just brilliant, again
telling much of its story through the landscape it takes place in (which is also
part of its philosophical argument), letting Aaron Pedersen say very much
through saying very little, and again talking about the way little corruptions
turn into big ones, the price of looking away, and why one might want to despair
at the world but perhaps shouldn’t. It also happens to get close to breaking my
heart in the process. Sen displays a keen sense of the way people tell
themselves stories about the world and their places in it to justify any petty,
evil act they commit but also some hard-won hope.
There’s some great filmmaking, great writing, and great acting (besides
Pedersen, there are fine turns by among others Jacki Weaver, Cheng Pei-Pei and
Alex Russell) on display here, too.
Shadows of the Dead (2016): John Ross’s film about a bunch
of teens and their struggle against a shadow demon thing, is the sort of
undemanding streaming service queue/SyFy Channel fodder one can watch with a
mild degree of enjoyment on a day when one feels very undemanding oneself. Thus
one can feel very mildly entertained by it and then forget about it completely.
With a bit of work, this could have been a more interesting film: sharper
characterisation of the protagonists, or a monster with less random powers, or
hallucinations of the characters’ greatest fear with a bit more heft and thought
to them are all things that come to mind immediately that could have made the
film less bland.