Getting unlucky with number 13
STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - March 5, 2002 - 12:00am
Like most other Filipinos, I am very, very superstitious. For instance, I try not to withdraw money from the bank on a Monday because this isn’t supposed to be a good way to start your week – from a financial point of view.

Every time I’m driving and I see a black cat crossing my path, I try to make a U-turn if it’s still possible. If not, then I recite the Lord’s Prayer (it’s a very powerful prayer) to ward off whatever bad luck that cat is supposed to bring me.

And then, there was this time when I got myself a vacation house up north and I had the entire staircase replaced because the last step didn’t fall under "oro."

Of course, I also avoid the number 13. The same with the numbers 26 (13+13=26), 39 (13+13+13=39) and so on and so forth... Every time I’m coiled up in my bed with a book, I try to do speed-reading each time I’m in one of those supposedly unlucky pages (Pages 13, 26, 39, etc.) because I feel like something wrong is going to happen to me – what with that unlucky number staring at me from the bottom side of the page. I know this is crazy ( but when did I ever insist that I was sane?) and utterly absurd. But like what most other superstitious people say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

However, there are people who are said to be lucky with the number 13. And this is why we have this thing called Lucky 13. In fact, the Lucky 13 sometimes works for me.

In 1990, the members of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino made me chairman – a position I initially refused for two reasons: 1) Nobody really wants that position and 2) It was the Gawad Urian’s 13th year that time and I was afraid things would go wrong around that period – and that would reflect badly on my kind of leadership. But with a lot of prayers, the year went well and we had a successful awards night that was held for the first time at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

When I went to see Thirteen Ghosts last week, I was hoping I would have luck once more with the number 13. So did I? Read on and find out.

Thirteen Ghosts
is about a typical American family that was very happy until tragedy strikes one day. Their house burns down and their mother dies in the fire. With all of their worldly possessions gone up in smoke, the family members are forced to live in a cramped house: Dad Tony Shalhoub, daughter Shannon Elizabeth, son Alec Roberts and nanny Rah Digga the rapper. (I find it strange though that in a country where even a nail clipper can be insured, this family has no fire insurance).

One day, they are told a long-lost uncle had died and they are to inherit his wealth, along with his house. The house (done in glass) is fabulous, all right. But there’s one not-so-tiny problem though: It is haunted by angry ghosts out to kill them.

Aside from trying (note my use of the word trying) to frighten the viewers, Thirteen Ghosts also tries (there goes that word again) to make its audience laugh by dishing out comic scenes and lines (mostly by Rah Digga) from time to time. While I appreciate the efforts, most of its supposedly humorous scenes fall flat.

As for its scary moments, this horror movie succeeds initially. But after a while, the ghost figures we constantly see on the screen begin to look like badly-stored mannequins from the C.O.D. Christmas display.

Of course, I do salute the people behind the film for their ingenuity in creating a new type of haunted house. Instead of an old and eerie-looking structure, they build a ghost house in modern steel and glass. Cool. But this horror flick ain’t. By the time the film gets to the middle part it gets frighteningly boring and tiring. Blame this on a very flimsy script probably hoping it could be saved by special effects. Sure, we get impressive visual effects – but we got impressed only in the beginning. After we see the lawyer (JR Bourne) getting split in two, all we get after that is a splitting headache because special effects are repetitively thrown in from all directions like tennis balls coming from Martina Hingis’ court during an extremely bad game.

The performance of the actors are also bad and – horrors! – F. Murray Abraham (as the ghost-hunter uncle), the Oscar Best Actor winner for Amadeus, was among them.

Thirteen Ghosts
is actually a remake of a 1960 horror movie with the same title. Unfortunately, I never got to see the original version, so I just referred to my Video Movie Guide book. And here is what the entry said about the 1960 version of 13 Ghosts: Lighthearted horror tale of an average family inheriting a haunted house complete with a creepy old housekeeper (Margaret Hamilton) who may also be a witch, and a secret fortune hidden somewhere in the place. William Castle directs with his customary style and flair. Pretty neat.

Well, the new version Thirteen Ghosts is also rather pretty. Pretty dull. Pretty annoying.

And now, as I put down my movie guidebook, I realize I’ve typed so many 13s in this review – and I’m getting scared something bad is going to happen to me. My computer might conk out and erase all my files – including this review. I don’t know. I’m just getting the creeps.

Fortunately, no such thing happens – knock on wood. Maybe I’ve already overshot my quota of bad luck when I decided to watch Thirteen Ghosts last week.

ALEC ROBERTS CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES DAD TONY SHALHOUB GAWAD URIAN GHOSTS HOUSE MARGARET HAMILTON MARTINA HINGIS RAH DIGGA THIRTEEN GHOSTS TIME
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