Ghost Ship
Dir: Steve Beck
Star: Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Emily Browning, Desmond Harrington
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R2

During an evenings entertainment aboard the opulent Italian Cruise liner the Antonia Grazia, the sultry singer enchants the assembled group of rich and well to do partygoers dancing around the ships expansive open deck. The Captain dances with a solitary young girl, travelling alone when suddenly a bizarre incident cuts short the evenings festivities.

40 years later, captain Murphy (Gabriel Bryne), and his crew of the salvage vessel "Artic Warrior" are approached in a bar by pilot Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) who whilst flying over the Baring straights took an aeriel photograph of what appears to be a huge ocean liner seemingly adrift. Reluctant to turn a blind eye to such a massive pay out opportunity, Murphy and his crew including the most astute Epps (Julianna Margulies) negotiate various terms and percentages with Ferriman whose only stipulation is that he goes along to protect his investment set off to find the ship. After ignoring various "ghost images" on the radar, they literally run into the behemoth that is the haggard and corroded hulk of the Antonia Grazia. During the initial survey of the ship one of the crew falls through part of the badly corroding floor and luckily is caught by Epps. Whilst hanging upside down and holding her crew mate aloft to save him from falling to certain death, Epps sees a young girl on the floor below them staring directly up at her one moment and gone the next. Ignoring the incident, Epps makes some worrying discoveries on her continued excursion, such as empty bullet casings in a swimming pool and even hearing her name being spoken on a disfunctional radio, just before all hell breaks loose and Epps must trust an unlikely guide whilst her crewmates begin to die in strange accidents.

The film opens like a cheesy Love Boat episode or something equally kitsch, but thankfully it soon degenerates into it's true form with a bloody en masse slaughter which is chilling and typically gory thanks to the make up effect diligence of Nicotero, Berger, Kurtzman and Jason Beard. The film's opening will certainly appeal to the more bloodthirsty amongst you. Admittedly, you do begin to wonder whether you had picked up the wrong film until that point, as the titles are equally misleading in their Disney-esque font style. The opening photography leads you down one path only to suddenly give way beneath your feet and suck you into the real film and drop you into an eerie and atmospheric movie.

Ghost ship is the latest offering from "Dark Castle" the production company set up originally to remake Willam Castle horror classics. With their own unique interperatations of some horror favourites, they have developed a certain standard which has tantalized viewers for the last few Halloweens with offerings such as The House on Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts. This time though, using an "original" story from Mark Hanlon they have opted to do something other than remakes. Essentially this is a haunted house film at sea, but has several underlying aspects which slowly unfold throughout the film which help raise it above such a standard and potentially uninteresting formula. It is rather formulaic here and there with a couple of "cue the floating / rotting corpse" type moments but they work nicely and fit unobtrusively into the story. Thankfully "Dark Castle" are managing to produce some pleasantly crafted pieces of horror cinema without following the predeterminate trend of CGI-reliance and implausible gore effects.

This is a novel and inspired idea well put together in a similar style to Thir13en Ghosts and although Mark Hanlon's story is original, you see many influences throughout the film which have obviously been taken by director Steve Beck and turned into some fabulous reworkings of famous set pieces from classic movies. Hold on tight for a stunning reworking of the Ballroom scene from The Shining not to mention a gruesome maggot scene which is a blatant nod of the head toward Poltergeist. Despite some well appointed homage set pieces, the script isn't particuarly impressive and manages to make some silly goofs along the way, ("Knots per hour"?? for example) not to mention the grossly inaccurate historical references to the Marie Celeste. Despite the limitations of a largely unimpressive script the ensemble cast provide some good performances on the whole. The prescence of Gabriel Byrne is a major bonus as he carries some of the more weighty scenes but is woefully underused and should have been afforded more screen time. Unfortunately Julianna Margulies looks a little out of place and maybe should have stayed playing a nurse in ER. I think her casting in a Ripley type role was rather ill advised as a far stronger personality was required. She just doesn't quite manage to pull it off which is unfortunate as she has some good scenes. Young Emily Browning was haunting and occasionally chilling as the ships only unmarked wraith.

Steve Beck who did rather well with Thir13en Ghosts returns to the helm as director and once again he displays a superb eye, managing to be both quite inventive and ingenious with his direction. His previous experience in the area of effects afforded him the oppurtunity to work on The Abyss which obviously gave him a huge advantage when it came to filming at sea. The Abyss shifted the goal posts drastically when it was released and it broke all of the moulds setting a new standard. A couple of scenes are quite similar in feel to The Abyss but in a setting such as this, it's only natural. Beck's brilliant direction on Thir13en Ghosts was impressive and this is perhaps marginally better as he has overcome what minor flaws he displayed previously and has obviously run a tighter ship here. He develops a great oppressive and dark atmosphere whilst avoiding some of the standard cliches. Ghost Ship is however shot very much in the "Dark Castle" style, which is a fusion of classic directorial flair and finesse with modern style and effects without the limitations of mid twentieth century cinema, which has evolved into an orignal and enchanting mix.

It is reassuring to find that "Dark Castle" are maintaining a consistently high standard for their films. There is very little that you could call "original" in horror movies these days but what "Dark Castle" is doing is good and helps to renew a movie going trend in horror and fuel the already established fascination of some, with horror cinema. Admittedly much of the film is predictable, but when you spend your time remaking horror classics or working within such an established genre you are unlikely to come across anything truly original. For some the consistency may appear rather "samey" when compared to the earlier offerings but each film is worth viewing without any preconceptions like that. Like Thir13en Ghosts Ghost Ship features some stunning production design and excellent cinematography. The ship in it's various guises looks quite striking.

Ghost Ship is not an outright scare the pants off you horror film at all, but it doesn't presume to tell you that it is. This is a far more subtle and sublime brand of horror cinema which will appeal to the more mature viewer but will undoubtably leave some fans (ie: the gore and splatter brigade) a little dissappointed. That doesn't mean this is a bad film though, and personally I have to admit I liked it. You don't get many films that will make good use of traditional horror cinema methods and skills as opposed to diving straight into the CGI ready mixed recipe for a film. Stylish, slick and as with the other "Dark Castle" offerings it is visually impressive.


Jack Ferriman:"I was in my plane, looking over the sea and I came across this"
Epps:"Congratulations! You found a boat, in the middle of the ocean".

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Excellent crisp image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Excellent quality soundtrack, very atmospheric
Features "Max On Set: Ghost Ship" - pretty good documentary
"Secrets Of The Antonia Graza" - Short but cool interactive puzzle
A Closer Look At The Gore", "Designing The Ghost Ship" and "Visual Effects" featurettes
Theatrical trailer
"Mudvayne - Not Falling" music video
Brief Cast and Crew Bios
Verdict Pretty cool disc with some decent extras all presented in a very cool holographic box.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home