Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror,Mystery,Thrillers Movie Review of ‘Ghost Ship’ (2002)

Movie Review of ‘Ghost Ship’ (2002)

Ghost Ship is the very definition of “not too bad.” To be sure, it’s a heavily flawed film, marred by an over-reliance on clichés and a disappointing lack of genuinely chilling moments. It’s essentially a haunted house film set aboard a derelict ocean liner, a premise that’s so intriguing and brimming with potential that it’s truly surprising we haven’t seen it done more often. Horrors of this ilk more or less live and die by their sense of tension and ability to scare, and in this sense Ghost Ship falls short, with only a handful of ineffective “boo!” moments. Nevertheless, the film miraculously does manage to stay afloat, as it’s entertaining and possesses solid production values. It certainly could have been a lot worse.

In the 1960s, Italian ocean liner the Antonia Graza goes missing during a seemingly routine cruise, leaving no trace of her whereabouts. Decades on, a team of salvage experts led by Captain Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) are approached by the mysterious Jack (Desmond Harrington), who has spotted an unknown vessel adrift in the Bering Sea. Jack agrees to give the team the ship’s location in order for them to salvage it, asking for a cut of the payday in return. Setting out on their tugboat, the team stumble upon the Antonia Graza, finding her utterly dilapidated. Once they climb aboard the ship, ghostly apparitions begin to make their presence known, and crew members disappear.

The highlight of Ghost Ship, without a doubt, is its opening sequence. Beginning in 1962 on-board the Antonia Graza in its prime, dozens of passengers are on the dance floor, soaking in the pleasant atmosphere and music. After a suspenseful build-up, a length of metal cable shoots through all of the dancers, coming out the other side dripping with red. With the passengers bisected, their top halves separate from their bottom halves, and they slowly die on the ground. It’s such a delightfully gory and convincingly-executed scene, and it’s the only thing in Ghost Ship that approaches true horror. Also great is the production design, which turns the Antonia Graza into a spooky central location, convincingly portraying the four decades of rust and decay. No matter the movie’s script flaws, it cannot be faulted from a visual standpoint, as it boasts terrific special effects which give life to the horrors of this story.

Unfortunately, most everything else is lacklustre. The actors apparently adored the original version of the script, but it was heavily rewritten without the actors’ knowledge, and it was too late to back out once they saw the altered screenplay. It’s easy to fathom why they were disappointed, as Ghost Ship in its current form is nothing more than a standard-order ghost tale. None of the characters are adequately developed, nor do they have any depth, giving the actors nothing to latch onto. Ironically, the most human character in the picture is actually the ghost of a little girl named Katie (Emily Browning). Her story is pretty heartbreaking, and there are nuances to her role which were ably handled by the young Browning. Also disappointing aboutGhost Ship is that the big “scary” set-pieces aren’t especially scary or spooky. Movies like this should send a chill down your spine and keep you on the edge of your seat, but Ghost Shipnever achieves this, remaining middle-of-the-road for the most part. There are also some horrific soundtrack choices, with techno and hip hop music showing up for no discernible reason. Horror requires a deft touch, hence the inclusion of such music feels completely inappropriate.

Ghost Ship may have great set design and special effects, but it’s short on suspense, mystery, logic and characterisation, not to mention genuine scares. It will keep you entertained for sure, as its taut runtime makes it easily digestible, but it’s just that nobody will remember it a few hours after viewing. Ghost Ship is unremarkable junk food horror, and it had the potential to be far better.

5.2/10

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