Dark Castle Entertainment was one of the biggest providers of horror in the early 2000s. Originally conceived as a company that would only produce remakes of William Castle films (their first two films were House on Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts), it went on to produce original material (beginning with 2002’s Ghost Ship). They have since moved on to non-horror films, but since Bloody Disgusting is a horror website we decided to rank all 13 of their horror films! None of Dark Castle’s films (save for one or two) could actually be considered “good,” so it’s a lot like picking the least rotten apple out of the batch, but at the very least their films provide some solid B-movie entertainment. Which one is your favorite?
Woof. The Apparition earns its 3% Rotten Tomatoes score. It consists primarily of watching Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan walk around their house…doing nothing. At a scant 82 minutes, the film is still far too long (and boring). It feels like a short film that was stretched out to feature length. The mostly talented cast of Greene, Stan, Tom Felton and Julliana Guill are completely wasted. The Apparition is a very bad movie. Don’t watch it.
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A serial killer is kidnapping women in Buffalo and the cop on his trail (John Cusack) is brought into the mix when his daughter (Mae Whitman) is among the kidnapped. The Factory actually has a pretty cool premise, but is marred by a laughable script, a Nicolas Cage-like performance from John Cusack and a twist you can see coming a mile away. The fact that it was filmed in 2008 but released in 2013 should tell you all you need to know about this turkey.
The problem with Whiteout, the Kate Beckinsale film adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, is that it’s boring. Beckinsale is charming as ever but even she can’t save this film from being a slog. Even though it is not a creature feature (it’s actually a slasher), comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing are inevitable. Whiteout pales in comparison to Carpenter’s masterpiece. It’s slow, dumb and poorly shot (once the snow comes in you can never tell who’s who). Skip it.
Return to House on Haunted Hill was Dark Castle Entertainment’s attempt to launch a franchise. It’s an admirable failure, but the movie is pretty bad. The one thing it has going for it is its creative and gory kills. You’ve got face removals, dismemberments, head smashings and immolations. Too bad everything else about the film feels so cheap. Amanda Righetti (the Friday the 13th remake) fills in for Ali Larter as Ariel Wolfe (Larter’s character is murdered off-screen) and must return to Hill House to locate a demonic idol (a MacGuffin if there ever was one) that is revealed to have caused all of the evil occurrences in the house. Return to House on Haunted Hill has it all: bad acting, bad directing, bad script (the post-credits stinger rips off the ending of Jumanji…I wish I were kidding)and bad CGI. Just watch the first one.
Believe it or not, Stephen Hopkins’s (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) The Reaping isn’t terrible. It’s just painfully generic and, at the end of the day, extremely forgettable. Hilary Swank stars as a former Christian missionary who has devoted her life to disproving religious phenomena. When she travels to Louisiana after reports of Biblical plagues are made, she quickly learns that there is some truth to the town’s claims. Once again, an interesting premise is bungled by a predictable and cheesy script, though the plague set pieces are nifty. The twist ending and cliffhanger are ridiculous, but at least the movie is entertaining.
Ghost Ship will forever be known as the horror movie with a phenomenal opening sequence and a terrible everything else. A pre-The Good Wife Julianna Margulies leads an impressive cast (Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Washington, Emily Browning, Desmond Harrington) in a film with impressive special effects but, as seems to be the case with many of Dark Castle’s films, a poor script. It’s hard to suspend disbelief when the characters in the film are as stupid as the characters in Ghost Ship, but if you’re looking for an entertaining B-movie, you can do far worse than Ghost Ship.
A lot of people really hate this movie, and I can’t say I blame them. This movie was a big part of my pre-teen years though so I have an affinity for it. Dark Castle’s second film boasts an impressive set design (that glass house!), slick makeup effects (those 13 ghosts!), and some great kills (that lawyer split!), but it’s a little too goofy for its own good and sports the frenetic editing style that would later come to define the Saw franchise. Matthew Lillard and Tony Shalhoub are competing for who can chew the most scenery and Rah Digga’s nanny character seems to belong in a different movie altogether. That being said, Thir13en Ghosts is a ton of fun, and embraces the schlock horror that defined many of William Castle’s films. The DVD has a special feature that allows you to see the backstory of each ghost. It’s pretty cool!