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Ranking All of the Dark Castle Entertainment Horror Films!

Dark Castle Entertainment

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?

13. The Apparition (2012)

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.

Related Article: Pet Peeve: When A Poster Spoils the Last Shot of the Movie

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12. The Factory (2013)

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.

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11. Whiteout (2009)

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.

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10. Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

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.

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9. The Reaping (2007)

Believe it or not, Stephen Hopkins’s (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream ChildThe 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.

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8. Ghost Ship (2002)

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.

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7. Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

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!

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34 Comments
  • Krissi Witley

    Thirteen Ghosts was a masterpiece, yall WILL move it up on the list!

  • Jailton Rocha

    Dark Castle still exists? The last movie I saw from them was House of Wax (2005).
    I just saw bad movies from them, then I just give up and didn’t look for any news about them since House of Wax…

  • Creepshow

    No, it looks like wax you dirty man.

  • Only ORPHAN and GHOST SHIP were Dark Castle’s best. The best of the bunch: Meh !!!

  • lonestarr357

    With all its silliness, I have kind of a fondness for THIR13EN GHOSTS (Matthew Lillard was terrific), though I’m forced to wonder: Arthur was on the brink of bankruptcy, yet was somehow able to afford Maggie’s services. How does that even work? More over, why did neither Maggie nor Bobby (who seemed to be engaged in an obnoxiousness contest) fall victim to the ghosts? Definitely an occasion where you wished a horror movie had the stones to kill off a kid.

  • House on haunted hill scared the shit out of me the first time I saw it. The set was really creepy and it was the first time I heard Manson’s Sweet Dreams cover and it blew me away! The way the ghosts attack Melissa freaked me out. Also loved the twists – are these the ghosts or Rush’s megalomania that scares them?

  • Luan Penna

    Great list.

  • The Horror Hunter

    I’ve only seen one of these (Orphan). Looks like I’m gonna have a movie marathon soon.

    • Rick-Taylor

      Orphan is legitimately the best movie of them all. It’s serious, well acted, well made, and a great script.

  • Elizabeth

    I’ve been a huge William Castle fan since I first saw his movies as a kid. I thought 13Ghosts was “meh” (aside from the awesome cgi ghosts), but I adore the House On Haunted Hill remake. Over-reliance on special effects aside, I thought it captured the spirit (no pun intended) of the original fantastically. Rush and Janssen did a great Price & Ohmart. And Chris Kattan turned in what is arguably his best movie performance.

    • Rick-Taylor

      I agree with you… up until the purple mist from the brick wall. That completely wasted what the movie was.

      • Elizabeth

        I pretend the CGI at the end doesn’t exist. The rest of the movie is so great. And really, when you compare it to the skeleton on a string in the original, it isn’t nearly as bad.

  • MacReady

    House on Haunted Hill is great. I also have to agree they are not great movies, but have always enjoyed 13 Ghosts and Ghost Ship.

  • Rick-Taylor

    I recall Gothika being really good until the ending. The undercranked ghost scenes were pretty creepy.

    Return to House on Haunted Hill had a great idea, that being the choosing the fate of the next scene, but it was so horribly done.

  • Mackey

    “The Hills Run Red” is really good. Very underrated.

  • anthonyd1

    Orphan is 100% the best Dark Castle movie. I remember going to see it in the summer of 09′ and was blown away by it. From Vera Farmiga’s amazing performance to the awesome evil performance of Isabelle Fuhrman (God I really hated her and what she was making Max be part of), this movie has everything a horror/thriller should have. It ended up being my favorite theater experience of the year. The audience was so enthralled and when the twist came the reaction from the audience was priceless. Movie experiences like this are the reason I will always show up to the theater rather than waiting for the blu ray.

    Side note: House of Wax is so underrated, it is one of my favorite slasher movies of the 2000s.

  • REC03

    Orphan is really good and House of Wax is one of the last good theatrical slasher films other than Scream 4.

  • Evan3

    Orphan is good enough, but if that’s your best… yikes! It’s like saying Devil’s Rejects is Rob Zombie’s best film (which is true0… meaning mediocrity is the best you can hope for.

    The real mystery is how they kept managing to assemble some top notch talent (notably Hillary Swank and Geoffrey Rush) for C-level but still unabashed horror. Most name actors avoid horror like the plague (and if they indulge, it’s typically referred to as a “thriller”), but Dark Castle kept turning them out in droves for horror. Crazy!

    I will admit, Thirteen Ghosts is a minor guilty pleasure of mine and the DVD extras discussing the history of the ghosts is actually really good.

  • Gilles Ronconi

    I rated Splice 3/10, I thought it was plain terrible. Just remembered the sex scene, wtf???

    • That’s the very end of the movie. XD

      I like it a lot though!

    • Evan3

      Yeah, that sex scene was essentially unforgivable. Out of character and brought the plot to a screeching halt. I didn’t hate Splice, but less cheap stunts would have really elevated the whole endeavor.

  • I loved The House of Wax and Orphan, instead I hated The Hills Run Red.

  • Me-devil

    Ghost ship kind of just stands… not crawling… NOT FALLING DOWN!

  • THGrimm

    I didn’t know all of these were the same production company (didn’t pay attention to credits as a kid) but wow! That’s great. They’re not perfect films, but fun and they know what they are. A good chunk of these I love because they are good horror flicks, but also have a place in my heart because of the nostalgia of being released when I was a kid. Case in point: House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, Ghost Ship. Then as I got older I appreciated offerings like Gothika and The Reaping (both of which I had little expectations) and I think they were great. The Reaping scared the crap out of me back in the day and I love the religious story line. House of Wax is a solid new millennium slasher and does the job. I think putting Orphan at number one is accurate, though, because that movie had a slow burn and suspense and was definitely apex out of the possibilities. I love that you did this list, Trace. It makes me feel warm and nostalgic about horror from our era of growing up.

  • richp_91

    I agree with the Orphan being number 1. Loved the twist! When I think of Orphan I think of that twist.

  • James Allard

    Oh, my. How soon we forget. Dark Castle was created as an attempt to bring back the film making style of William Castle. Comparing these films to anything other than Castle then is a little disingenuous, but I will take that.

    First and foremost, I have seen/own 12 of these films, and while they aren’t Crimson Peak, they are a damned good time. The Hills Run Red deserves much more attention (as indicated) but a little more appreciation. It has all of the good in the mockumentary format, a few nods to found footage (the good parts, and yes, there are some) but most importantly, it is absolutely, totally batshit insane. Best part: it does not appear batshit insane. It is, it just doesn’t look it.

    Splice is a good silly popcorn almost-but-not-quite-science science fiction film but owned throughout by Polley and Brody. I loved them in the movie, and their … love child? Maybe? Well, she was one of the best critters in years.

    The House Of Wax not only deserves another look, I would strongly suggest watching the original Mystery Of The Wax Museum and then the remake, which was called House Of Wax. The films all echo one another, and it feels like there should have been one more iteration after Price’s version.

    13 Ghosts has Tony Shaloub. Seriously people, what the fuck is wrong with you? Lillard has a great time in it too. (And really? You ignore F. Murray Abraham? What?) A hoot and a holler, maybe not art, but good sloppy dirty fun.

    Orphan was genius. Period. That was art, and it was fun, and it was dark and it was The Bad Seed, sort of.

  • Mandiblez Jean

    I am personally inclined to agree with most of this list, however I feel that Thirt33n Ghosts should be higher on the list (if only for makeup effects alone), that ghost ship opening sequence still haunts me, and I found Orphan’s ‘twist’ totally unsurprising….buuuut I love all these movies either way, and now seeing all of the posters together in one list, I am noticing how amazing Dark Castle’s Art Department is. I wonder if they were all developed by the same couple of people.

  • John Connor

    I love Splice. The ending sucked because it turned into a cliched slasher. But everything before was wonderful. People are so uncomfortable with the sex scene because they’re scared to look at themselves and of being judged. Why do you fuck anything?

  • Igor

    The hills run red is an incredible movie that reminds much of the slashers of the 80’s

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