Hey folks, Harry here... I'm not looking forward to GHOST SHIP, but what the hell... I'd probably end up in a theater watching it at some point anyway and hearing that it isn't as painful as I'm anticipating based upon 13 GHOSTS... well that's talcum for the ass rash of anticipation this one was causing. Here's ThePoleOfJustice with a rundown of it all....
Heya, ThePoleOfJustice here again with some mild surprise (and spoilers, of course) concerning GHOST SHIP.
Much as I hate to pre-judge something, from the moment I saw the poster, I thought of GHOST SHIP as a pile of crap. Is that fair? No. Is it understandable? Hell, yes. Hollywood horror films have been either not very good to ass-kickingly Gawdawful for quite a while now, and this showed no signs of bucking the trend. Add to that the fact that director Steve Beck's only other film was THIR13EN GHOSTS, and, well...what would YOU think?
I'm thinking that I'm gonna earn my money, as I shuffle into the theatre to check the print for flaws in the film stock. So the film starts, and...
...hey. The opening's not half bad. Chock full of clichÃˆs, certainly, but not without a sense of sophistication. The setting is a luxury cruise liner sometime in the past (turns out it's in the early 60s.) Beck allows the scene to flow, and you actually get a sense of what it might be like on the ship until THWACK, the horrible thing we all knew was gonna happen happens. And, bizarrely enough, it's actually unsettling. And gory as all Hell, of course. But unlike pretty much every other recent horror film, it's handled with some sense of what to show and what not to show. There's still loads of blood, but it's not excessive. Just disturbing.
This is just the opening sequence, and I allow myself to get my hopes up. Wow, not only does this not suck, it's actually looking OK. Fast forward 40 years and we see Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Marguiles, and a generically diverse crew doing some salvage stuff, and...OK, this part isn't very good. It's not horrible, but it doesn't bode well. My hopes start to sink back down again.
Now, I'm not gonna give you a blow by blow of the film's narrative, but one thing GHOST SHIP deserves credit for is its attempt to actually tell a story. This is not simply a situation film, where the characters find themselves in a tight spot and spend all 5 reels getting killed while trying to get out of it. No, there's actually something going on under the hood. It ends up getting fumbled, but the fact that they tried it at all raises eyebrows.
In a nutshell: a Coast Guard pilot alerts our intrepid crew that there is a big ass ship, just floating out there in international waters, waiting to be claimed. Loads of cash for the salvage crew that can snag it. They get there, it turns out to be a legendary ghost ship. They get on board, and of course, things are not what they seem. Although the ship has been missing for four decades, they find a digital watch. Then they find some bodies less than a month old. Julianna Marguiles starts talking to a little girl who seems to appear only for her. And they find gold. Shitloads of it. Turns out there's more to the situation as a whole than we first believe...
OK, that's nothing remarkable. But there is actually a MYSTERY, with clues, indications, and everything. There's even a few things that occur to me now that weren't apparent immediately during the film. If this sounds like I'm over impressed by this, well, keep in mind what we're talking about here. All indications were that this was going to be another staggeringly horrid piece of tripe, ala FEAR DOT COM. Scant as it is, the fact that there's something to chew on is amazing.
Unfortunately, director Beck is not a storyteller. The clues are dropped, the situation is set up, but all is ultimately explained in a hasty, extended flashback that seems more concerned with tying up loose ends than with adding anything to the movie. Actually, the flashback itself isn't half bad, except for the ridiculously stupid faux-rock song they glued on top of it. Considering the fact that what we're seeing happened forty years ago on a luxury liner, the last thing I want to hear is some suburban poser eunuch screaming over regurgitated corporate "rock." (Side note: mainstream rock 'n' roll is possibly the only thing in American culture that is worse off than mainstream horror. When will these people grow some balls?)
The resolution to all this is really stupid. Poorly conceived, poorly handled. There have been enough holes in the narrative and situations at this point that this isn't surprising (and wow, I could've sworn gold was a lot heavier than it appears to be here.) It is, however, disheartening, since there are a small handful of genuinely well-done sequences. The opening, as mentioned above, as well as a jump out at you scare involving the little girl that is actually, well, scary. And there is a scene of spirits escaping that is, dare I say it, beautiful.
So, ultimately, is GHOST SHIP good? No. Whenever the crew has to interact with itself, which is quite a bit during the sluggish middle third, it's pure pain. Generic pain, at that. Note to future filmmakers: if you're going to populate your movie with stock characters, don't try to get them to carry the story. They can't. Also, too much of what is good-to-OK about this is lifted from THE SHINING, ALIEN, and other stuff you've seen. Not to mention all but one of the character deaths are anti-climactic, seemingly unimportant. Isn't this what's supposed to be the scary part, the fear of death thing? Hell, one even happens off camera. The one death that IS somewhat unsettling is too contrived to be impressive.
THE RING will, of course, absolutely destroy this one. But I can't say that there weren't a few unexpected moments of creepiness, even if they were far too few and way too far between. It's just a baby step away from the pile of suck out there, but a step is a step. GHOST SHIP isn't very good, but it does, in some small way, give me hope. Pole out.