Ghost Ship (2002)

ghost_ship__2002There’s been many ghost films over the past decades, and there’s not much original material or horror devices you can inject within the horror genre these days. Especially films that involve ghosts and spirits because it’s all been done to death. This film is no exception applying to that formula, but it does tend to use the tired clich├ęs with much tenacity that I found it hard to dislike this. No matter how hard I tried, it was tough trying to label it awful, because it isn’t awful. It’s far from being scary, but it’s not dull either.

A salvage crew is approached by pilot Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) who discovers an abandoned cruise liner among the waters, they agree to scour the boat with him and discover something truly gruesome and horrifying lies within the belly of the boat, something they will never be able to escape alive. At the prologue there’s this incredible and gruesome scene that sets up the entire movie. Instantly we get to present day where we meet the group of boat salvagers played by some great underrated character actors. What’s interesting about these characters is that they’re not cardboard cutouts as seen in many ghost films. These are actually likable characters that I wanted to root for and I couldn’t help becoming intrigued by them.

Eldard shines, Isaiah Thomas is likable, Julianna Margulies channels Ripley from “Alien” in this film playing the rough and tumble Maureen Epps who discovers what lies within the boat, and then there’s Gabriel Byrne who manages to downplay his role as Captain Murphy never going overboard with his routine as a sea dog. Harrington’s role is meager at first but manages to blow out the screen with an electric and powerful performance in the climax of the film. Emily Browning is great and effective as Katie who serves as a spirit guide rather than ghoul helping in the morbid exploration of the ship, often aiding Margulies’ character discover what events unfolded in the cruise liner. There’s a lot elements in the movie that borrow from older films and are re-used in this that aren’t very effective but still cool, nonetheless.

There’s the sea of blood ala “Shining”, the old ghost/mirror trick ala “Poltergeist”, the walls oozing something icky ala “Amityville”, and the maggot/food transformation scene ala “Lost Boys” and much, much more. As far as scares go, this film won’t provide it, go somewhere else for jumps because there’s nothing here. There’s the occasional pop-up and shadow play within the boat, but nothing much is happening. The effects used for fright effects are overly-extravagant which kept 1998’s “The Haunting” from getting off the ground. There’s the odd and redundant scene where Isaiah Thomas’ character and the audience watch an abandoned room be re-built by ghosts before our very eyes as everything begins returning back to normal. It’s interesting but scary? Hardly.

As far as ghosts come, don’t expect to see them here, either; there’s probably five ghosts within the film and only two are meant to be creepy as the others are far from it. The rest of the film is comprised of the sea crew looking through the boat which is pretty boring considering it’s haunted and wouldn’t be very scary even for kids. There’s a lot of emphasis on the people who were ghosts, even with the awesome montage showing how the boat became cursed, but it still isn’t enough. I would have liked to see more ghosts, more creeps, and maybe even a walking dead person; but there’s nothing even remotely close to what I expected or would have wanted. In the end it’s just forced and rushed and the explanation as to what and why caused the ship to be haunted seems so broad and indistinct. Despite that, I dug this movie a lot. It’s moody and atmospheric, with a lot of solid performances from the cast.