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GHOST SHIP (director: Steve Beck; screenwriters: story by Mark Hanlon/screenplay by Mr. Hanlon/John Pogue; cinematographer: Gale Tattersall; editor: Roger Barton; music: John Frizzell; cast: Gabriel Byrne (Sean Murphy), Julianna Margulies (Maureen Epps), Ron Eldard (Dodge), Desmond Harrington (Jack Ferriman), Isaiah Washington (Greer), Alex Dimitriades (Santos), Emily Browning (Katie), Francesca Rettondini (Francesca), Karl Urban (Munder); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Joel Silver/Robert Zemeckis/Gilbert Adler; Warner Bros./Dark Castle Production; 2002)
“Vile and tacky are the two best adjectives to describe Ghost Ship.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

What a tacky shipwreck of a ghost story! It’s produced by Joel Silver/Robert Zemeckis/Gilbert Adler and directed by Steve Beck, the same Hollywood group who made last year’s equally as tacky “Thir13en Ghosts.” This scary cruise starts off as if we’re in for a first-class chiller, then moves into steerage fare by dwelling on the use of cheap scare techniques; such as, skeletons in the closet, rats climbing out of a box, and maggots coming out of two of the crew’s mouth after chowing down on canned beans. It concludes in a senseless slasher/gore way.

The story is derived from Mark Hanlon’s novel, who also co-scripted with John Pogue. The latter must bear the responsibility of taking this film into such murky waters. Though it has a noted cast, none were asked to do any serious acting except to look appropriately frightened at times. The PC ethnically diversified crew featured seems to mimic the “The Perfect Storm” crew in looks. Vile and tacky are the two best adjectives to describe Ghost Ship.

Ghost Ship opens with a gorgeously staged seafaring massacre on one festive Atlantic Ocean night in 1962. The crew and the wealthy passengers of the luxury Italian ocean-liner Antonia Graza are slaughtered in a mysterious way while dancing the night away in an elegant ballroom. The killings leave the deck awash in body parts and blood. Only a prim little English girl named Katie (Emily Browning) in a pale blue party dress seems to survive.

The film returns to the present forty years later, and a mercenary salvage crew of the tugboat Arctic Warrior: the veteran know-it-all Captain Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), the no-nonsense jack-of-all-trades Epps (Julianna Margulies), the fun-loving Dodge (Ron Eldard), the engine repairman Santos (Alex Dimitriades), the engaged black first mate Greer (Isaiah Washington), and the welder Munder (Karl Urban), are confronted while celebrating in a bar by Alaskan postal pilot Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), after coming back from a six month successful salvage trip, with the proposal of looking for an unnamed vessel he has aerial photos of adrift in the Bering Sea.

On a foggy, rainy night the Arctic Warrior runs smack into their unnamed vessel, and the captain gleefully tells his crew it’s the missing luxury liner Antonia Graza. While searching the ocean-liner, Epps sees the ghost of Katie but feels the other macho crew members would mock her if she mentioned it. So she confides this only to Ferriman.

The bulky ship is in no shape to be easily salvaged to their home port and besides all its leaks, there are also mysterious things such as fresh blood pouring out of rivet holes and shadowy figures all around adding a note of eeriness. But all rejoice when an unmarked substantial gold shipment is found in a box, and they put their energy into salvaging only the gold.

Captain Murphy makes his way into “la cabina di capitano” and starts drinking Scotch with the deserted ship’s ghost captain and confesses about his guilt-trip over his greed and how he lost a member of the crew. Greer mistakenly forgets his vows of love to his home girl and fatally yields to the temptation of Francesca, a songstress ghost from the Antonia Graza. Before you know it, the tugboat goes up in a fireball leaving the remaining crew stranded aboard the spooked Ghost Ship. There’s no escape from such bloody nonsense for cast or viewer.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”