Ghost Ship (2002) / Horror

MPAA Rated: Rated R for strong violence, gore, language and sexuality     
Running Time: 91 min.

Cast: Julianna Marguelies, Gabriel Byrne, Desmond Harrington, Ron Eldard, Emily Browning, Karl Urban
Director:  Steve Beck
Screenplay: Mark Hanlon, John Pogue

Review published April 22, 2003

Let's get the easy questions out of the way first.

Is this film as dumb as its title?  Well, yes.  Is it as bad as you think?  Probably.  Is there anything good about it?  Sure, there's a competent cast and some nice visual flair by Thirteen Ghosts director, Steve Beck.  Is it a complete waste of time?  You'd have to be starved for some serious no-brain horror to be remotely entertained by such a threadbare premise for a scare flick.  Is it scary at least?  Unless you're a small, impressionable child, it's doubtful you'll do much more than chuckle, although the gore factor is a bit high.

Although it takes place aboard a ship, this is the same old haunted house flick you've seen many times before, and not altogether different from the aforementioned Thirteen Ghosts and the like.  It's very formulaic, with a crew of varied personalities each being picked off one by one in wildly gruesome fashion, and anyone with any sense of how these types of films work will be able to figure out who will be the heroine (oops, is that too much of a spoiler?  Doubtful.) in the end.

The main plot deal with the Antonia Graza, an Italian luxury cruise ship which has been missing for over 40 years., The mystery of its whereabouts aren't nearly as strange as the murderous activities that went on aboard it way back in 1962.  When it is spotted, a small crew of seamen is sent to investigate, and possible salvage some treasures, but they soon discover they aren't the first to find the ship, and that they are not the only presence aboard. 

The cast is likeable, but not very realistically cast, as none of the crew seem like authentic seamen, instead cast according to their looks more than anything else.  Of course, authenticity isn't really a staple of the ghost movie genre, so it's the least of the film's many faults.  Where the main problem of Ghost Ship lies is in its conception, as there really is nothing new to add to a genre that has experienced overkill in this area, with even another "ghost ship" type movie, and a slightly better on at that, coming out in the same year, Below.  Without anything as far as story to wow us up its sleeve, director Beck concentrates more on shock and gore, and your mileage may vary as to how much of this you find scary.

There are a couple of moments that will arrest your attention.  The opening scene where a good part of the Antonia Graza's patrons are literally sliced into two pieces is indeed a horrific moment, and although I am quite hardened to much of the gore this film has to offer, this one did manage to disturb me with its graphicness.  The second moment comes in terms of a flashback when young Emily Browning (A Series of Unfortunate Events), who plays a "good" ghost, shows Margulies (The Darwin Awards) some of the horrors that happened aboard the vessel on that night way back in 1962.  It's a fast-paced and exhilarating montage of horrific murders that does much to explain some of the weirdness, and it is here where Beck shows that he does have a good sense of style when he is inspired.  If the rest of the film were as adeptly handled as this scene, it would have gone a long way to making this film almost entertaining.

As impressive as some of the visual aspects of the film are, it just can't rise above its derivative leanings into anything of substance.  The cast of fine actors, including Gabriel Byrne (End of Days), whose choice to take on this film is the biggest head-scratcher of the film,  is pretty much wasted in this glossy and superficial scare flick.  The real ghost of Ghost Ship is the story, implementing a plot full of ideas that were dead a long time ago.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo