Movie Review – Ghost Ship

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- Summary -

Director :  Steve Beck
Year Of Release :  2002
Principal Cast :  Julianna Margulies, Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isiah Washington, Alex Dimitriades, Karl Urban, Emily Browning.
Approx Running Time :   91 Minutes
Synopsis:  There’s a boat, see, and it’s, like, inhabited by ghosts, who, like, you don’t want to bump into.
What we think :  Ab-so-lutely dire film from Steve Beck sees Margulies and Bryne scuttle their careers (temporarily, though) on the reef of Dark Castle’s lamentable Ghost Ship, a film so bereft of scares and logic that it almost defies description. While the opening scene is especially brutal and effective, the rest of the film never once begins to live up to the promise it starts with.

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My mate over at Silver Emulsions, Will Silver, is a die-hard fan of schlock, Z-grade films, most of which are made on a shoestring budget with limited potential for success. This in itself is fine, because those kinds of bottom-rung films never aspire to be anything other than what they are. However, every year there’s a slew of films released which join those gutter-dwelling epics in the basement, even though technically they shouldn’t. Ghost Ship, with it’s large-ish budget and solid cast, should have been a winner; it should have risen above the schlocky standard set down by its script, if only for generating some scares and making the hairs on the back of your neck rise up in fear. The end result, however, is risible at best. Whether the consequences of letting Steve Beck loose on a, frankly, shockingly poor script will ever allow me to claw back the 90 minutes I spent watching this trash, I doubt it would make much difference. Ghost Ship is terrible, a shocking example of what happens when a film is supposed be good turns out to be anything but.

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The horror of being in such a shitty film finally hits home….

If you want to know what the film is supposed to be about, it’s perhaps best not to watch the film. Instead, read the synopsis on iMDB or Wikipedia for a somewhat convoluted explanation as to what the hell is going on, because watching the film is like an ancient Mayan trying to decipher Latin. The film starts well enough for a horror flick – bunch of tourists on a cruise ship are slaughtered Cube-esque by a razor thin wire, the only surviv0r being a young girl, Katie (Emily Browning, who would go on to appear in mainstream blockbusters like Sucker Punch… and the recent Sleeping Beauty). Several decades later, a salvage vessel crewed by the usual band of rag-tag reprobates discovers the wreck of the death ship, and like most normal folks, clamber aboard to explore it before they salvage it. This is when the ghosts start to appear, and the mental unraveling of the still-living crew begins. It’s also the moment the film trips from relatively coherent mainstream film into an incoherent, jumbled, slip-shod debacle. The narrative feels fairly straightforward at first, but the convoluted plot twists and “supernatural” themes overwhelm the wafer thin characters and motivations to the point where you lose interest completely in whatever the hell is going on.

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So this is what “collecting a paycheck” feels like….

Ghost Ship has a cast of decent actors, all of whom either slum it (Margulies) or become to utterly confused at what they’re doing, you can see it in their eyes (Gabriel Bryne). Aussie actor Alex Dimitriades, whose career sputtered and stalled after this and never got any better – even here in Australia – is forced to spout impossibly stupid dialogue, most of which causes any normal viewer to cringe with embarrassment. Isiah Washington, the dude best known for being kicked off Grey’s Anatomy for a homophobic slur a few years ago, looks all at sea as a grungy sailor dude (see what I did there?), while Ron Eldard could have slept through his performance and you’d never notice. Desmond Harrington is another actor just lost in the shadows and bombastic jump-cuts. The problem isn’t really the cast, though; they could all have done better had the script been better to begin with. The confusing story, half-assed characters and unimpressive direction merely add more imbecilic film-making woes to this already tanking production.

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Thanks God, this film’s almost over….

I’m not entirely adverse to a good horror flick, but what I hate more than anything is when the horror is subverted for idiotic scares at the cost of story. This film is a prime example of existing for the sole purpose of wasting money and time – of the viewer, I’d wager – in that it offers nothing more than cheap scares and vapid characters. The horror of this film is not what happens in it, rather it’s the fact that the film exists at all. I’d like to have had more praise for a film made in Queensland, but even patriotism only stretches so far in the cinema. Ghost Ship stretches the credibility of serious horror, eliciting only minor chills when it should have – and could have – been so much better. I lay the blame squarely on the terrible script, a script to cobbled-together from hackneyed genre cliches I’m surprised the writers (Mark Hanlon and John Pogue) weren’t sued for plagiarism. Ghost Ship is a debacle in nearly every sense. If you’re after quality cinema, this is definitely one to avoid. If you’re not, then go right ahead, with my blessing.

2 stars Movie Review   Ghost Ship

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Rodney is the Editor-In-Chief of Fernby Films, and has been appreciating films seriously since 1993. Rodney’s first foray into online reviews was for a now-defunct online Australian DVD store, before starting up fernbyfilms.com when that enterprise fell through, in 2007. Rodney lives in the South Australian city of Adelaide, with his wife and two young children, whom he loves very much.

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  1. I'm tempted to think I might be writing a similar review about Emily Browning's more recent "revealing" film, Sleeping Beauty. I've not heard good things….

    But this film is pure shit. I'd forgotten most of it too until I rewatched it for this review…. Wishing I hadn't, now.