Horror review: Ghost Ship

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 31, 2002

By Steve Newton

The folks at Hollywood’s Dark Castle Entertainment just don’t know when to give up. After nauseating viewers big time with their lamebrained haunted-house remakes, Thir13en Ghosts and House on Haunted Hill, they’re now polluting the high seas with this dead-in-the-water combo of The Shining and Titanic.

Still, it’s a definite improvement over the first two.

A slumming Gabriel Byrne stars as Sean Murphy, the captain of a daredevil salvage crew that is recruited by a mild-mannered pilot (Desmond Harrington) to investigate a mysterious vessel drifting off the coast of Alaska. Once onboard, they discover it’s the rusted remains of the fabled ocean liner Antonia Graza, a “floating art palace” that’s been lost at sea for 40 years. Before long, they realize the ship is also haunted and that the spirits are far from friendly.

When they discover a huge cache of gold bars in the hold, greed becomes a motivating factor, but more crucial to the plot is the gruesome demise of nearly the entire cast. Unfortunately, after an opening-scene flashback that depicts a dance floor full of Antonia Graza passengers being simultaneously sliced to death by a single flying wire, the sight of guys getting impaled on spikes and crushed by huge cogs loses some of its appeal.

The production-design work involved in turning the once majestic ship into a decaying hulk is quite impressive, but that one positive feature gets sabotaged by silly inconsistencies in the script. For example, after salvager Maureen Epps (ER’s Julianna Margulies) gets startled by the ghost of a little girl and falls on her back into an empty swimming pool, she discovers a trail of bullet holes, as if people had been lined up in there and shot. But when the actual murders are shown in flashback, the victims are machine-gunned outside the pool.

The makers of Ghost Ship saved the very worst for last, however, ending things with a laughably hokey, Titanic-inspired climax that’ll make you shudder with contempt. You can bet this flick won’t be showing up on poor Byrne’s résumé.

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