... aka: 13 Erotic Ghosts in 3D
... aka: Thirteen Erotic Ghosts in 3D
Fred Olen Ray
Ahhhh, the "erotic horror spoof." First turning up at the turn of the new millennium on both VHS and DVD (when those formats still really mattered) and adequately filling 3 a.m. time slots on Cinemax ever since, the "erotic horror spoof," or "EHS" as they will be referred to from here on out, have become a minor blip on pop culture radar over the past decade and a half. Most people have seen at least one of these things, right? The EHS formula is simple: gratuitous female nudity, simulated sex, goofy comedy and a title that recalls a well-known, big budget hit. Though there were certainly horror spoofs and even EHS's prior to 2000, this subgenre really took off after the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999. The ears of B movie filmmakers worldwide suddenly perked up as they collectively sighed, "Hey, they filmed that with a camcorder for no money and made a ton... I can do that, too!" Production immediately was underway on a host of similar B movie offerings promising dumb jokes and naked chicks. Since The Erotic Witch Project, The Bare Wench Project, The Blonde Wench Project and numerous other films emerged at around the same time, it's difficult to even say who did it first. The two big names you need to know in this field, however, are Seduction Cinema and Jim Wynorski.
Seduction Cinema employed a host of different directors to churn out titles like Mummy Raider (2002), Play-Mate of the Apes (2002) and Kinky Kong (2006), which had rock bottom budgets and focused mostly on all-girl action. Having been in the business since the early 80s, Corman U graduate Wynorski, SC's primary competitor at the time, had been making and successfully marketing comedic T&A exploitation films for decades prior so he had the upper hand at both coming up with amusing titles and getting his films distributed. Though Jim threw his hat in the ring during the early stages of the EHS (making three Bare Wench films, a greatest hits compilation and a "making of" documentary... because we really need to know how these things were made, right?), he wouldn't hit his stride until 2005's The Witches of Breastwick became a cable hit. Afterward, we were treated to the likes of House on Hooter Hill, The Breastford Wives (both 2007), Cleavagefield, The Devil Wears Nada (both 2009), The Hills Have Thighs (2010) and numerous others.
Competing with SC and Wynorski for cable airtime and DVD sales throughout the 2000's, was Fred Olen Ray. I always love pointing out that Fred is originally from Wellston; a tiny town in Southeast Ohio, because it's about a fifteen minute drive from my own tiny (though slightly larger) hometown of Gallipolis, Ohio. At some point, Fred moved to Florida, made a few ultra low-budget films there and then migrated to Hollywood, where he capitalized on the huge video boom of the 80s / early 90s and became one of the most prolific directors around. Into the 2000s, Fred had his own own shtick in the soft-core market and that was the ever-trusty "bikini" movie. He'd go on to make around twenty (!) soft-core films with "bikini" in the title and even had his own special bikini movie alias: Nicholas Medina. Ray was also smart enough to adapt to the changing times. With the video market starting to dry up in the late 90s, he began exploiting TV more and more; getting his films and TV projects on regular rotation on such networks as Starz, Lifetime, Here! and the SyFy Channel. He was also savvy enough to form his own production company (American Independent Productions) in the early days so he could control the destiny of most of his own films and eventually formed his own distribution company (Retromedia), which currently has a catalogue of hundreds of titles (not just his own).
Starring, the ample talents of...
Julie "I don't need no introduction" Strain
Once upon a time Cinemax Queen Mia Zottoli
Former biochemistry major turned web babe and all-girl X star Aria Giovanni
So what does this all have to do with Thirteen Erotic Ghosts? Well, for starters it's one of the earlier examples of the modern EHS, but mostly I figured I'd have to whip out my verbosity card in order to give you something to read. Hey, one can't expect too much plot discussion when covering a soft-core flick, can they? Thirteen - which was obviously made to capitalize on Dark Castle Entertainment's "remake" Thir13en Ghosts (2001) - opens at the Waffle House School for Wayward Girls; a castle that doubles as "a very private school for very naughty girls." The first scene, set in a steamy hot tub where Julie Strain gets down with a pair of identical twin blondes (Zen and Zero "the Porcelain TwinZ," who, away from movies are self-proclaimed "pioneers of fetish-burlesque"), proves just how naughty these girls are. Very. This scene also really pushes the boundaries of soft-core by throwing in some simulated dildo play. After Julie's character - Baroness Lucrezia - gives the two naughty girls a little spanking, she raises her metal sex toy into the air triumphantly and it's struck by lightning. The girls are fried in the hot tub and the house goes down in flames; killing everyone inside.
"Many years later," a small (three-person) TV crew shows up there in hopes of proving its haunted reputation. There's host Ted Nightingale (Jay Richardson on hammy overdrive), who's hoping to revive his career after a failed show ("Who Wants to Be a Crack Whore?") and a "cultural exchange" tabloid scandal with a 14-year-old male Puerto Rican exchange student, cameraman Mikey (Richard Gabai) and uptight, bossy producer Gina DiCaprio (Mia Zottoli). The guys are handed a pair of green "ghost goggles" and then we cut to Professor Ted Isor (the director) explaining how the glasses work. Yes, this video was shot in a similar fashion to Castle's original 13 Ghosts (1960) with special glasses that enable you to see - or not see - certain ghost images. Since I didn't have the glasses I guess I missed out on some of the ghosts, but I did see a few other things that managed to keep my attention.
The TV crew meet the home's current owner Hugo ("Gordon Baer" aka "Orville Ketchum" aka Peter Spellos), venture inside and then encounter various female ghosts, whose restless spirits are trapped there until someone can prove they exist. And what do the ghosts do to pass all this time? I'm sure you can guess. There are seven simulated lesbian scenes in this one, from the standard girl-girl, to the girl-girl-girl all the way up to the girl-girl-girl-girl. Zottoli is in a few of these scenes (including one in front of a fireplace) and the ones with Strain and the twins have a mild S&M tinge to them, with some whipping and Julie doing her usual dominatrix bitch routine. There's a lot of what I like to call "beyond R but not quite X nudity" and some pretty graphic scenes; a few of which feature hardcore performers like Felony and the very attractive Aria Giovanni (who was married to Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 for a number of years). The Porcelain Twinz, who don't seem to mind doing things like kissing or licking and fondling each other's breasts (which will either be hot or kind of uncomfortable to watch depending on one's tastes), also appeared alongside Julie in three other movies: Purgatory Blues (2001), Barberellas (2003) and Blood Gnome (2004). Later, in 2009, they also made headlines as part of a rather peculiar sexual harassment lawsuit...
In 2009, Zen and Zero (real names Amber and Heather Langley), sued Simon Hammerstein, owner of Manhattan's 'The Box' club, for an undisclosed amount. According to the suit, the girls claimed they were coerced into spicing up their stage act with "glass dildos" and were instructed to "perform cunnilingus on each other as well as vaginal penetration with simulated phalluses." Fearing unemployment and being kicked out of their apartment (which the Defendant apparently helped set them up in), the two then felt "compelled" to "accede to Hammerstein's directive" of joining him in bed for a sex romp which included more "Twincest." No word on how that all turned out.
When this isn't focusing on the girls, there's a lot of terrible acting and mugging (aside from Spellos, who's quite amusing in his small part), goofy dialogue and throwaway on-camera confessionals, plus a few instances of (mostly awful) CGI. Gary Graver shot it on digital video and it looks OK for what it is and Fred's wife, Kimberly A. Ray aka Miss Kim, was the producer. I guess this is what it is, but it's not one of the director's better films nor is it an outstanding piece of erotica.