It’s May 1962; dozens of wealthy passengers are dancing both in the ballroom and the decks of the Italian ocean liner, Antonia Graza. Everyone is having a great time except a young girl named Katie Harwood who is sitting alone until the ship’s captain kindly offers to dance with her. Elsewhere, a mysterious hand pulls down on a lever that unravels a thin wire cord from a spool. The spool snaps and the wire slices across the dance floor like a blade, dissecting the dancers in mere second. Only Katie is spared, due to her height. Katie gazes up towards her dance partner as the Captain’s face splits open at mouth level as the top of his head falls off and Katie screams in horror. Now if the rest of the movie can just try to be as amazing as that opening….
Unfortunately that’s asking just a little bit too much of Ghost ship as we are introduced to “the best damn salvage team in the business” In reality, they’re a tough-talking, hard-drinking cast of carefully handpicked racial stereotypes. We have the African-American first mate (Greer), the Mexican engineer (Santos), the Irish tugboat captain (Murphy), the two best buddy American characters (Dodge & Munder) and finally an Italian salvage team leader (Epps) who’s a female to boot.
The crew are celebrating a recent success at a bar, when Jack Ferriman a Canadian weather service pilot approaches them and says he has spotted a mysterious vessel running adrift in the Bering Sea. With the ship being in international waters, it can be claimed by whoever is able to bring it to port. The crew sets out on their ship, the Arctic Warrior; an ocean salvage tugboat. They discover the ship is the Antonia Graza, which mysteriously disappeared in 1962 and was believed to be lost at sea, as both the crew and the passengers were never heard from again.
When they board the ship and prepare to tow it, they discover that it contains a large quantity of gold and unfortunately for them this is the exact time that strange things begin to happen. Epps claims to have seen a little girl on the stairwell and the crew find a digital watch rightly leads them to believe that they are not the first people to find the derelict ship. Epps and Ferriman discover the corpses of another salvage crew and it’s at this moment that they all come to the agreement that fixing the ship and towing it is not worth anything compared to the hundreds of millions that they now possess in gold. They decide to leave the ship and take the gold, but an invisible force opens a gas valve in the engine room and the Arctic Warrior explodes as the engine is started, killing Santos and leaving them stranded.
With no real choice but to stay and repair the ship before it crashes into a group of sharp rocks, the crew must wait until morning before they can get to work but this ghost ship has other ideas. Although Santos has just died quite horrifically and despite being distraught enough to punch Jack, Dodge and Munder find crates of food and dare each other on who gets to sample it first to see if it is at all still edible. To their surprise all of the treats are in impeccable condition, better than that in fact but suddenly the movie goes all ‘Lost Boys’ as the guys realise that the food contains a huge amount of maggots. I just found it strange that Dodge went from being so upset to suddenly returning to his old comic relief self in the next scene; in fact I don’t think he even mentions Santos again for the duration of the film.
Greer is seduced by the sexy Italian singer seen at the beginning of the movie believing it simply to be a dream after getting quite drunk. She undresses and leans up against an open elevator shaft with a death inducing drop below as Greer leans in and forgets that important aspect about ghosts; you can’t touch them. I mean sure you could say he thinks he’s dreaming but who actually has dreams that vivid, he only had like half a bottle of wine for god’s sake; at least he didn’t die first I guess.
Feeling responsible for the death of Santos, Murphy enters the captain’s quarters with the intention of getting wasted because that’s going to help the situation? He encounters the dead captain of the Graza who explains that they recovered the gold from a sinking cruise ship Lorelei, along with a sole survivor. He shows Murphy a picture of the survivor, who he is shocked as he clearly recognises the figure in the photo. He rushes to tell the rest of the crew, but supernatural forces causes him to see everyone he meets as the burned ghost of Santos, causing the crew to think he has gone mad and lock him in the drained fish tank only for “someone” to fill it with water and drown him.
Meanwhile, Epps meets Katie who reveals what had happened on the Graza. The sole survivor of the Lorelei convinced the crew of the Graza to murder the passengers, in order to claim the recovered gold for them. In a coordinated attack, non-participating crew were murdered first and the lobster soup served at dinner was laced with rat poison. Shortly after, a cable is pulled killing many people on the dance floor, echoing the beginning of the film. Passengers not murdered at this point were chased down one by one and gunned down beside the pool. Katie was chased to a closet and hung by the murderous crew members.
Afterwards, one of the ship’s officers turns on the rest of the crew, and kills them all, only to be killed himself by the singer, Francesca. Another man then joined Francesca in an embrace and walked away as a large hook swung into her face, killing her in a quite brutal scene. The man is revealed (via photos Murphy received from the Graza’s Captain) as Jack Ferriman, who is actually a demonic spirit who masterminded the massacre in 1962 and may have done something similar on the Lorelei.
Anyone that’s actually seen this movie will quite rightly understand that it comes as absolutely no surprise that Jack is the mastermind behind it all because the movie makes it so very obvious. It’s as if the writers for the movie knew this fact so they came up with an overly complicated sub plot in which Jack is some kind of collector of souls who’s forced to do so after a lifetime of sin. He explains that if he doesn’t meet his quota on souls then management won’t be happy, oh I don’t know it’s just rather silly.
As usual I won’t spoil the ending for those who care but it’s quite a disappointment and very, I mean very cheesy; think souls floating up to heaven kind of cheesy. There is a slight twist at the end which isn’t very shocking when you really thinking about it.
So that’s Ghost ship and after such a great opening it never really stands up to its decent potential. The premise of the movie is a really fascinating, the idea of a ship with hundreds of passengers mysteriously reappearing with no clues as to where anyone had gone is creepy. But due to a serious lack of character development and a very generic group of characters you fail to really care too much about what happens to them. It tries to be unsettling but more than not manages to be more amusing rather than scary which is disappointing because the setting is so good and truly ripe for scares.
Ghost ship really reminds me of Event Horizon, the only difference is that one of those two movies is scary and one isn’t. Apparently the original idea for the movie was to have them discover the Graza only to have a mystery member of the crew attempting to take the gold for his or herself by killing everybody and they should have stuck with that. The reveal about Jack being a soul collector while trying to add more depth to the story really just falls flat because of how illogical it all feels.
On a positive note the movie is entertaining and if you go into it knowing that it’s not going to be overly scary or creepy then I think there’s enjoyment to be had. The acting is pretty decent and the gore effects are really great when they step it up especially that amazing opening the scene and the freight hook death near the end. The soundtrack while really quite good is very confusing as there are moments when highly dramatic music is played when little is actually happening.
I know I keep mentioning it but after that opening scene you can’t help but feel let down by the rest of the movie. Ghost Ship had great potential but other than a few stand out moments it never delivers on that potential and ends up trying too hard to be complicated when it should have let the setting speak for itself.