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Ghost Ship Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/27/2002

There are two types of horror movies I’ve noticed:  movies that actually scare you (see my review of The Ring) and movies that just gross you out.  Occasionally a movie does both, but in the case of Ghost Ship, it is the latter.


Ghost Ship is the story of an Italian ocean liner called the Antonia Graza.  In 1962, it experienced a series of graphically horrifying events that led to the deaths of almost everyone on the ship and the abandonment of the survivors.  The ship was left in the middle of the Bering Sea.  Forty years later a salvage crew, led by Captain Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) and salvage team leader Maureen Epps (Julianna Marguiles), set out to check out the ship.  They become aware of the ship when Canadian Air Force Pilot Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) approached them with an offer.  For twenty percent of whatever they find, he'll tell them where the ship is, which is far from any of the shipping lanes.  They finally agree on ten percent with the stipulation of him coming along.  They head out to find the ship, and since it's in international waters, anything they find will be entirely theirs to keep.  The rest of the crew of their salvage tugboat named the Arctic Warrior includes First Mate Greer (Isaiah Washington), Dodge (Ron Eldard), Santos (Alex Dimitriades), and Munder (Karl Urban.)  When they reach the Antonia Graza, they discover that it has many riches on it.  That isn’t the only thing still on the boat though.  The ghosts of the passengers who disappeared along with the boat are also aboard, and are still haunting it today.  It's not long before Epps thinks she sees a young girl in a party dress, Katie (Emily Browning), who seems to be the only ghost not intending them harm.  Greer becomes fascinated with a sexy lounge singer named Francesca (Francesca Rettondini.)  Murphy keeps seeing the ship's Captain (Robert Ruggiero.)  Aside from Katie, all the ghosts seem to have an evil plan afoot for all the crew members.  Once they finally realize this, they then move quickly to try to get off the ship and save their lives.


This movie is not the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.  Most of the intended scares are predictable.  There are also a few plot holes (which I can’t give away because it would ruin the movie), but you will see them by the end of the movie.  Overall, this movie is a little hokey.


On the plus side, however, Ghost Ship is one of the most creatively gross movies I’ve ever seen.  It starts out very memorably.  The movie begins looking like a Disney movie.  The bubbly music plays and the graphics are cutesy.  In fact, the title Ghost Ship is written in cursive pink letters.  It pans down to show a happy crowd of passengers aboard the Antonia Graza, dancing and enjoying the music.  Suddenly a steel wire comes loose and swings across the crowd, slicing everyone in half like lunchmeat.  Everyone gets this stunned look on their face, then body parts start slowly falling down.  You will definitely find yourself saying, “Ewww!”  That won’t be the last time in the movie that you will make that expression.


I’m actually giving Ghost Ship a better than average rating, because the gross special effects are fun for just the sake of escapism.  The performances are fine too (Marguiles might remind you of a cross between Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies and Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies.)  This is director Steve Beck’s second movie for Dark Castle Entertainment (his first one being last year’s Thirteen Ghosts.)  They are a production company devoted to remaking William Castle movies, or movies in the Castle vein (the original 1952 Ghost Ship didn’t involve Castle.)  In case you are not aware of who William Castle is, rent the movie Matinee, a comedy starring John Goodman that is loosely based on his life.  He is a man who praised style over substance.  When you went to see a Castle movie, you saw a movie with gruesome effects (heightened by stunts like shocking their seats and having people dressed up as ghosts run around the theater.)  He offered to sell life insurance policies to moviegoers who might “die of fright.”  Of the three movies made for Dark Castle Entertainment (1999’s House on Haunted Hill being the third one), I like Ghost Ship the best.  I believe it takes on the William Castle philosophy the best (minus the stunts of course.)  Go and check it out for the special effects, but don’t expect to be scared too much.  That’s what The Ring is for.


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