Ghost Ship
directed by Steve Beck
(Warner, 2002)

A lot of horror fans don't think too highly of this film, but I quite enjoyed my time on the Ghost Ship. Maybe there's nothing too original or groundbreaking about the type of horror it has to offer, but that doesn't mean it's not effective and entertaining.

Certainly, believability is a weakness in a few spots, and I'm still trying to figure out how a couple of "facts" could have been even remotely possible, but the film does create an eerie atmosphere and doesn't mind spilling a little blood in pursuit of its ends.

I think I can safely say that the opening scene of the movie is rather unforgettable, and I greatly admire the effect the moviemakers were going for here. Rarely does a movie purport to take out untold scores of people with one swift blow, and it is most unfortunate that a lack of commitment to this potentially extraordinary scene sets in motion the very doubts and misgivings some viewers have of the real meat of the story. The method of mass execution used in this first scene is pretty hard to accept scientifically, but the real problem comes in the form of some very obvious mannequins lying among the "dead." The filmmakers try to salvage the scene by having the victims take a few moments to figure out that they are quite dead, and that works for me; unfortunately, they take this too far and end up making what should be a glorious bloodbath look a little silly.

The real story here concerns the crew of a salvage boat hired to salvage a mysterious old ship that a pilot claims to have spotted in the Bering Sea. What they find is an Italian ocean liner missing for 40 years, but the great riches they discover onboard lead not to the paradise on Earth they fantasize about, but rather its exact opposite. Trapped aboard the dead vessel, each crewmember must fight to stay alive and sane in an environment that quickly shows itself to be quite haunted indeed.

The fates of a few are rather hokey and predictable, but the storyline around one little girl ghost saves the movie in my opinion. Only Maureen Epps (Julianna Margulies) can see little Katie (played quite effectively by Emily Browning), who eventually tells her the story of what happened 40 years ago. This little girl, a pure-hearted ghost trapped on a ship full of malevolent spirits, certainly does her share to give the movie the creepy aura it needs. The major flashback we see through the eyes of Katie, though, is just plain weird. As we are transported back 40 years in time, we are suddenly bombarded by some type of hard-driving, neo-tech electronic music that seems wholly out of place.

Ghost Ship has its faults and weaknesses, but in my opinion it made for an entertaining albeit rather predictable little horror movie. Some people seem to hate the ending, but I had no problem with it whatsoever; I think it worked quite well in the context of everything I had just seen. I would not call Ghost Ship a must-see horror film by any means, nor do I personally consider it all that gory, but I do think it has enough chills and thrills to satisfy or at least entertain many a horror fan out there.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 28 May 2005

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