A derivative horror movie that never quite reaches the greatness of its startling opening, Ghost Ship still has some good moments. Overall it’s a rather routine affair that isn’t exactly going to go down as a horror classic.
The film begins with a salvage crew retrieving a substantial amount of money following another successful operation. The crew consists of much experienced Captain Sean Murphy ( Gabriel Byrne) , tough talking Epps( Julianna Margulies), second in command Greer(Isaiah Washington) , pair of jokers Dodge and Munder( Ron Eldard and Karl Urban). This is rounded out by mechanic Santos( Alex Dimitriades) . After their latest success, a man by the name of Jack Ferriman( Desmond Harrington)inquires about their skills and wants them to help him with something. Being a guy who works with the weather department, Jack has seen a ship floating and seemingly abandoned in Bering Sea . As it’s in an area that’s classed as international waters, whoever finds something valuable there owns it. This intrigues the crew, though they don’t realise that this trip will be something very chilling for everyone involved. Using their salvage tugboat, the group that’s headed by Sean and joined by the mysterious Jack, head into the Bering Sea on what they think is just going to be another standard operation that they’ve carried out time and time again . Soon enough after sailing through stormy and extremely treacherous conditions, they come across the Antonio Graza, a large Italian liner that was declared missing in 1962 and hasn’t been seen since. Once boarding the creepy ship that catered once to the rich and powerful of the world, all manner of strange and supernatural events happen. Epps swears that she sees a little girl who swiftly vanishes following a near fatal fall through unsafe flooring by Munder, dead bodies are found in a flooded compartment and doors seem to lock by themselves. Discovering a multitude of boxes filled with gold bars, the team think they’ve got it made, but a malevolent force has other ideas. Tragedy strikes when they return to the tugboat, resulting in a fatality and the vessel being severely damaged when an invisible, mysterious force causes most of it to blow up . With the tugboat now out of action, the group must go back on the in hopes of getting it started again. The ghostly atmosphere and events from the past is not going to make it easy for any of those remaining as a haunting begins to occur with gruesome intent on its mind.
Steve Beck as director manages some moments of tension and scares but parson the pun, is all at sea when it comes to the nitty gritty of events. As a result, Ghost Ship never rises above being merely watchable. Now the main area to praise is the opening sequence which also sadly provides the big highlight for Ghost Ship. We begin back with misleading titles that look romantic and sweeping in the grand Old Hollywood tradition . Drinks are flowing and the party is in motion, just before carnage strikes. A thin wire cord is tightened by an unseen person then set free across the dance floor. It manages to leave all the passengers bisected in immensely graphic fashion because of how taut and quick it is. The only one spared is a terrified and lonely little girl named Katie(Emily Browning) , who because of her petite stature avoided being brutally butchered. The scene is pretty horrifying and the use of practical effects and camerawork truly makes it one that stays with you. It’s such a shame that after such a promising opening and hints of greatness, Ghost Ship retreats down the seen it all before route. Still some of the ambience works on the ship, especially from a visual standpoint. Unfortunately mostly everything ends up hamstrung by stupid decisions from characters and some questionable moments that really make it seem very amateurish. Take for instance when we learn a bit more about the ship; this is told from the perspective of Katie, who initially survived and is now something of a haunted presence. What should be intense sequences of dread and startling revelation are drowned out by a modern cross between rock and some kind of ambient dance that just does not fit at all. It baffles me as to why the people behind the film decided to go down this avenue, also peppering events with no real sense of logic to glean.
The cast for the most part are pretty decent in what is a misstep of a movie. Gabriel Byrne bristles with intensity and a sense of leadership, complimented well by his authoritative voice and internal struggle that threatens to burst out. The big standout of Ghost Ship is Julianna Margulies, who brings a tough attitude and feeling of grounded emotion to the part. Margulies makes Epps the most resourceful character as well as the one who is explored the most throughout. It helps that she’s the most rational person as well, making it easy for her to stand out even when at the mercy of unfocused material. Desmond Harrington has a certain enigmatic quality that makes you wonder if his character is letting more on than he is. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast predominately isn’t that great. Isaiah Washington is pretty ineffective as the second in command who seems to spout various parts of exposition and attempts at knowing, while falling foul of the cliches inherent in the genre. Ron Eldard and Karl Urban are left with thankless roles as the alleged comic relief with the same also going for Alex Dimitriades. Thankfully a young Emily Browning is rather impactful as the young guide through the ship; her haunted visage and habit of appearing then vanishing greatly benefitting a threadbare story.
So with a cracking opening and decent cast, Ghost Ship has two things in its arsenal. Sadly, there’s little else to really get excited about here. Anyone who watches will see what I mean.