Sunday, December 13, 2015

Triskaidekaphilia: 'Thirteen Erotic Ghosts' (2002)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13. 

Since I began this project nearly six years ago, I've watched movies of various levels of obscurity on YouTube, the Internet Archive, Daily Motion and other sites, but this month's selection is the first that I've watched on a porn site. Yes, Thirteen Erotic Ghosts is Skinemax-style softcore, from prolific direct-to-video filmmaker Fred Olen Ray (here working under three different pseudonyms), whose career spans dozens of movies in the three pillars of the direct-to-video market: softcore, horror and family movies. Disappointingly, it's not a direct erotic parody of William Castle's classic 1960 B-movie 13 Ghosts or the 2001 remake (although it was most likely created to capitalize on the expected popularity of the remake). That might be because both movies involve a family inheriting a haunted house from a long-lost relative, and kids definitely do not belong in softcore porn. It also might be because Ray is lazy, and a movie like this can't have too much plot to get in the way of the numerous sex scenes, so things have to be simplified.

The plot, such as it is (taking up maybe 25 minutes of the 70-minute running time), involves a three-person TV crew investigating an old house that was once home to an all-girls boarding school. Some vaguely supernatural disaster (involving lightning striking a metal vibrator) depicted at the beginning of the movie killed all 13 of the students, and the place is supposedly haunted by their ghosts. Aside from the title, the main reference to the other movies is the use of "ghost goggles," special glasses that the characters wear in order to see the ghosts. Early on, the movie stops for a William Castle-like interlude as director Ray (billed as a "stereoptimist") speaks directly to the audience, explaining the use of the polarized 3D glasses that apparently were included if you bought the DVD. The idea is the same as in Castle's movie, to put them on when the characters do or when onscreen text indicates you're supposed to, which basically translates to putting them on before every sex scene. Obviously I didn't have any glasses, but it doesn't seem like they actually had any effect, since there's no indication of hidden images, and no gimmicky 3D moments.

No one is watching this movie for impressive special effects, of course, and the cheap video effects used to show the ghosts appearing and disappearing are about as rudimentary as they come. The filler scenes in between the sexual encounters are sometimes unexpectedly amusing, and the various actors (all Ray and softcore regulars) bring a sense of fun and camaraderie to their roles. This may be a cheap quickie designed to exploit both a contemporaneous Hollywood movie and the appetites of horny teenage boys, but that doesn't mean that the people involved in making it can't have a good time. The biggest "star" here is B-movie legend Julie Strain, who plays the onetime headmistress of the school, now trapped as a ghost in the house and desperate to escape. (The ghosts can only be freed if someone documents their existence, for some reason.)

All of the semi-amusing one-liners, hammy performances and cheesy effects are way less important than the numerous sex scenes, of course, which feature the various ghosts of hot young women pleasuring each other (apparently being dead does not curb one's sexual appetites). Erotic Ghosts is weirdly progressive in a way, in that it features no heterosexual sex whatsoever. The male TV reporter and cameraman, as well as the house's creepy male caretaker, are nothing but bystanders to the many, many lesbian sex scenes. Their female producer gets to participate, but the guys can only gawk through the ghost goggles. Of course, the girl-on-girl action here is designed solely to titillate a straight male audience, but the complete absence of male sexual gratification is still notable. It's pretty much the only notable thing about this throwaway effort, but chances are Ray was too busy prepping his next five movies to be concerned about that.

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