Published on June 1st, 2008 | by simeon0
Sailors of old have often passed long, cold, and lonely nights at sea with tales of ghost ships that travel beyond this realm accumulating victims to their spectral crew with each appearance. There have been several boats that have vanished only to be found without a crew, and such tales have inspired films for years. There has been the monster in the dark variety such as “Deep Rising”, to the supernatural with a twist such as “Event Horizon” which attempted to give a new twist to the old genre by substituting a space ship for an ocean going vessel.
This Halloween season brings us two new entries into the genre in an attempt to scare up some revenue from a season that is surprisingly devoid of the traditional slasher films. Last week saw the gripping and creepy submarine film “Below” surface in theaters and this weekend will bring audience and the first sighting of the new film “Ghost Ship”.
The film centers on the crew of a salvage ship in the Bering Sea. The captain of the ship Murphy( Gabriel Byrne) is a loyal and dedicated captain who watches out for his crew and is something of a father figure to them especially to the only female on the crew Epps (Julianna Margulies). While relaxing after a successful salvage effort, the crew is propositioned to investigate a mysterious but large ship by a pilot who claims he has recently seen the ship. For a percentage of the bounty, the pilot provides the crew with what he knows and tags along as they set out to locate the ship.
The crew eventually arrives at the ships and discovers that it is an Italian luxury liner that has been missing for nearly forty years. The crew boards the derelict and finds it abandoned but a treasure chest of salvage opportunities and with visions of dollar signs motivating them, set out to repair the ship in order to tow it back to port. Now this would not be much of a ghost story if everything went as planned so naturally all manner of strange and tragic occurrences start to befall the crew, especially once they uncover a cache of unmarked gold bars that is worth hundreds of millions. Of course all hell breaks lose in no time and the crew is forced to try to escape with their very lives.
While the storyline of “Ghost Ship” is very simplistic and has been shown many times, there are some interesting diversions in the film. I found the opening scene while predictable to be a very effective and fresh scene that had many in the screening audience gasping with shock and morbid delight. The special effects were nothing outstanding and the characters were not well developed at all. I found the captain to be the most underdeveloped as we were told early in the film that he never drinks yet see him struggle with a bottle later when he has the opportunity to have a drink in private. The suggestion is that he is a recovering alcoholic yet this point is sadly not developed at all and he like most of the cast are left as bland charactures that generate little to no sympathy for them or their well being from the audience. I did like the way that the film incorporated ideas from “The Shining” as manifestations from the past interacted with the cast making them question reality and react with the images even if it ultimately lead to their doom. I was reminded of Nicholson’s character descending into madness as he returned to drinking while conversing with the ghostly bartender in the snowbound hotel. Sadly though “Ghost Ship” lacks the gripping drama and characters of “The Shining” and Byrne seems to be walking through his role wasting his talents on a part that is paper-thin at best. There were a few nice twists now and then but far to little to keep this sinking ship afloat. My advice, save this one for a rental.
2.5 stars out of 5