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PoleOfJustice says GHOST SHIP isn't all that horrible!

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 clichÈs, 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.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 17, 2002, 3:47 p.m. CST

    Sure I can...

    by Motutoo

    Given the proper circumstances.

  • Oct. 17, 2002, 3:57 p.m. CST

    Thank God I'm not the most distraught person on AICN

    by Terry_1978

    Congrats, Mr. Carney......;)

  • Oct. 17, 2002, 4:05 p.m. CST

    Fart Carney

    by Monster Rain

    Is this supposed to be pop art of some sort? Using Harry's board as a canvas. It's somewhat Warhol-esque. Well, whatever you're trying to do, do it quick. I'd have to wager this'll be taken down quicker than the pants of our collective childhoods at the TPM premiere.

  • Oct. 18, 2002, 9:25 a.m. CST

    I should be a horror writer...

    by LoneChicken

    ...If this is the kind of stuff that keeps getting made. Let's see, put together a background about some sort of creepy unknown entity. Like an inanimate object that's alive, or a killer back from the dead, or a killer's offspring, or just ghosts from another dimension. Throw in a diverse cast of characters: White guy, black guy, woman, gay, hispanic, asian, jock, nerd, paranoid-on-edge dude, eskimo, pacific islander, little person, middle easterner, and a rich person. Then, kill them off one by one. Sheesh! How many freakin' bad horror movies have the "kill them off one by one" scheme going??? There are probably more of those than there have been number of spy/secret agent movies that have popped up the last couple of years. Can the writers come up with something else? Anyway, I've always been drawn to the concept of ghost ships and ghost trains, but I'm disappointed to hear this isn't a good movie. I had a glimmer of hope when I heard Gabriel Byrne was in it, but oh well.

  • Oct. 18, 2002, 11:49 a.m. CST

    The Loaf Boat

    by hipcheck13

    Outside of "The Ring" and a few other notable "new" horror films, most modern Hollywood horror flicks suck. Funny ThePole should mention "corporate rock," in that it was (probably) the perfect song for this cookie-cutter, effect-heavy scare flick.

  • Oct. 19, 2002, 10:52 a.m. CST

    "Sea Evil"?!?

    by Osmosis Jones

    Worst. Tagline. EVER. Figures this crapola gets a wide release, and Below gets screwed over.

  • Oct. 19, 2002, 5:52 p.m. CST

    Hey, I liked Death Ship

    by SykkBoy

    George Kennedy was great as always (fuck movie snobs, us b-movie fans know who the real acting God is). Richard Crenna wasn't bad. It's been a long time since I've seen Death Ship, but I remember the woman who ate the candy (sure, first thing I'm going to do on a haunted ship is eat candy that's on it) and of course george Kennedy getting possessed by the Nazi....good shit...why do most horror films these days try for the PG13 fucks up good movies. I hate PG13 horror flicks almost as much as I hate PG13 action movies...fuck it, I want blood, breasts, monsters, explosions and body count. Fuck Roger Ebert, Joe Bob Briggs speaks for the REAL movie fan. Long live the b-movie!

  • Oct. 19, 2002, 10:55 p.m. CST


    by Louis P.

    because that movie is brilliant and "Ghost Ship" is another horror flick from Dark Castle. I believe they made "13 Ghost" last year and that was a pile of shit. I believe that they crapped out another load the year before that. Why should "Ghost Ship" be any different. I mean it's a haunted boat movie to add onto the list of other haunted whatever-they-come-up-with-next movies that'll come out next year. Plus, they always screw up the ends of these movies with high concepts (see House on Haunted Hill) instead of sticking to the original material. "The Ring" is the movie to see if you are out for a good scare. That flick really holds you in its grip and does not let go. I can't wait to find the original.

  • Oct. 20, 2002, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Death Ship... still the best

    by Philmaker

    Finally people are remembering Death Ship and the candy scene in that film. Sure the production values were a little light, but the film was damn creepy and had some very neat shots of the boat. If you haven't seen it, rent it. It deserves to be seen. They used to show it on late night TV all the time about fifteen years ago. And, yes, Ghost Ship seems like a blatant rip off all the way down to the poster. (Also, check out Night Boat - a creepy novel by Robert R. Mccammon, one of America's least appreciated writers of the last twenty years. This book, while not one of his best, preceded both these films by several years.)

  • Oct. 23, 2002, 3:23 p.m. CST

    "Event Horizon", anyone?

    by FargoUT

    Sure, "Event Horizon" was no original horror film. But it sure as hell scared the piss out of me. I've never sweated my way through a movie such as that one in my entire movie-going experience. Well, okay, maybe "Arachnaphobia" but I was 11 when that one came out. This one comes far too close on the heels of "Event Horizon", "Deep Rising", and all those other ship movies. But with the seeing visions? The ship with an evil entity? It's way, way, WAY too much like Paul Anderson's film. And while I'm in no way advocating Paul Anderson as a great filmmaker (let alone a good one), I do think he got lucky with that fright flick. And on top of it all, it actually had a worthy ending to its story.