Warner Bros. // 2002 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 28th, 2003
I love it when Halloween rolls around. That always means more B-level horror movies produced on A-level budgets. Last Halloween, the big contender was the fish stick splatterfest Ghost Ship. Featuring one of the nastiest opening sequences this side of Cube (check out that slice and dicer to see what I mean), Ghost Ship went on to do only so-so business upon its initial theatrical release. Starring Gabriel Byrne (End of Days), Julianna Margulies (TV's ER), Ron Eldard (Deep Impact), and Isaiah Washington (Romeo Must Die), Ghost Ship sets sail on the high waters of DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Decades ago, the Antonia Graza set sail for a party-filled adventure. What the passengers and crew received was a brutal demise at the hands of some pretty nasty instruments o' death. Flash forward to the present day as we meet a rusty group of salvage experts who think they've hit pay dirt. When a young pilot shows Captain Murphy (Byrne) a seemingly deserted vessel in the middle of the sea, the captain and his crew (including Margulies, Eldard, and Washington) decide to see what secrets the boat holds. Upon inspection they find themselves aboard the long lost Antonia Graza (I know, I know...hold in your shock). After finding a wealth of gold bars in the ship's hull, a freak accident leaves the captain and his crew stranded in the bowels the steel beast...and they're not alone. As the crew searches the wreckage for a way out, they find themselves seeing deadly apparitions and hearing otherworldly noises. As one by one the crew members disappear, the secrets of the Antonia Graza will flow like blood...
I know that I'm in the minority here, but I really do relish these movies. In the past few years, ghost stories have had a resurgence on the big screen, thanks in part to producers Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, and Gilbert Adler. These are the same guys who created the off-the-wall horror show Tales From The Crypt on HBO back in the early 1990s. Since then, we've been hit with a barrage of movies about specters, demons, and other gross delights, including the ho-hum The House on Haunted Hill and the better-than-expected Thirteen Ghosts. Now here comes director Steve Beck's Ghost Ship, a movie that asks the question "what happens when a group of socialites are cut in half by a razor sharp wire," then proceeds to answer it in gory detail.
Ghost Ship is heads and shoulders above House on Haunted Hill, yet not as good as the underrated Thirteen Ghosts (also helmed by Beck). It's an atmospheric creepfest that features an array of dead bodies, rotting body parts, and rivers of blood. The basic premise is a haunted house set sail on an ocean liner (this theme would also be explored to slightly better results in the monster movie Deep Rising). There are the usual horror conventions, including (but not limited to): things popping out from unexpected places, ghastly visions, folks getting poked with really sharp instruments, lots of slamming doors and compartments, and my personal favorite, the old "ghost-tricks-victim-into-thinking-something-is-real-when-it's-really-a-plunge-down-an-abandoned-elevator-shaft-onto-pointy-metal-protrusions" scenario. Ah, I love the smell of deception in the morning.
Like most movies of this caliber, the film doesn't waste time lingering on characterization or plot cohesion. The actors play their parts well -- they scream, they gurgle, they die -- and it's all done to a screenplay that makes about as much sense as Michael Bolton's musical career. By the time we've hit the flick's conclusion, the audience is left wondering just what in blue blazes happened. There are about half a dozen plot twists and turns, and not a one of them make any sense. However, I, Judge Patrick Naugle, was able to figure them all out, thus turning Ghost Ship into one of the most intriguing, complexly wonderful stories ever shot on film. Drum roll please...
Here's the secret: Basically, when you see the flashback of the gho...
*** Warning: THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN INTERRUPTED DUE TO MAJOR SPOILERS ***
...then he eats his brains with a spoon and the secret is revealed! Now you should have a newfound respect for this film, realizing that it ranks among the likes of Citizen Kane and Casablanca.
Of course, while I enjoyed Ghost Ship for what it is, the film does have many flaws. The story is nonsense and often irritating in its attempt to be clever in the conclusion. For horror fans, there's plenty of blood, but not enough true frights or scares -- grisly death scenes abound, but where's all the cool looking ghosts that really ought to be in a movie entitled "GHOST Ship?" The cast is made up of some talented folks, including a wasted Julianna Margulies (who needs a new agent) and Gabriel Byrne as the salvage boat's Irish captain. In the scope of great horror movies, Ghost Ship doesn't even make the top 200. It's fun for what it is, but ends up a mediocre effort due to the head scratching screenplay and lack of solid horror elements.
Ghost Ship is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and hot tamale did this transfer turn out great! Look as you might you won't find a darn thing wrong with this print of the film. The colors are sharp without any bleeding, wear, or grain in the picture. No edge enhancement, no washed out images...nada. Just a fine looking transfer that will be enjoyed for years to come. Unless of course you decide to take a vacation cruise...of the damned!
The soundtrack is presented in an equally nice Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English and French. Oooooh, spooky! There are some great moments in this film featuring multiple directional effects and surround sounds. Doors slam shut, waves beat against the hull, and faint voices call for the characters to meet their doom. This ends up being a fantastic sounding track that is clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Warner has scared up a few extra features for this release of Ghost Ship, starting with a pretty cool DVD case that's in 3-D! Thrill to seeing that skull-encrusted ocean liner comin' straight at ya! Here's a run down of the rest of supplements available on this disc:
"Max On Set: Ghost Ship" Featurette: This is a short 15-minute look at the making of the film. Not surprisingly, this is typical promo fluff stuff sporting interviews with director Steven Beck, producer Joel Silver, production designer Grade Walker, actors Julianna Marguiles, Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Washington, Emily Browning, and others. Lots of clips from the flick are included for those who didn't get enough the first time around.
"Visual FX" and " A Closer Look at the Gore" Featurettes: These two featurettes combined run about ten minutes and are brief glimpses at how various effects in the film were achieved. "Visual FX" focuses on the miniature model used for the Antonia Graza (which is actually quite interesting) and "A Closer Look at the Gore" is just that: a look at how some of the nasty effects were done, including that wonderfully gruesome opening scene.
Finally, there is a puzzle game called "The Secrets of the Antonia Graza," which includes some short vignettes that aren't worth your time, a theatrical trailer for the film presented in anamorphic widescreen, a music video for the song "Falling You" by Mudvayne, and some cast and crew biographies.
You can do much better and you can do much worse than Ghost Ship. Warner's work on the video and audio portions of this DVD is great -- and check out that icky opening scene! You'll be talking about it around the water cooler for days...
Ghost Ship is found guilty of a misdemeanor (a shaky screenplay), but is released with community service swabbing the deck. Court dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Three Featurettes
* "Secrets of Antonia Graza" Puzzle
* Theatrical Trailer
* Cast and Crew Biographies
* Music Video
* Official Site