Ghost Ship: Does This Supernatural Chiller Sink or Swim?

Somewhere between New Line Cinemas and Blumhouse Productions, Dark Castle Entertainment shone briefly as horror king. Named after horror master William Castle, the studio was created with the purpose of remaking his classic movies. Within just a few years, Dark Castle produced remakes of 13 Ghosts, The House on Haunted Hill, and House of Wax. Upon its release in 2002, Ghost Ship was a departure for the studio. In spite of its similarity to the 1980 film, Death Ship, Ghost Ship was an original story. Original or remake, critics hated Ghost Ship. But horror fans born and raised in the 90’s and early 2000’s have a soft spot for this ocean chiller. Does Ghost Ship deserve a critical re-appraisal? Or is it just a bad movie?

Synopsis

In 1962, tragedy leaves luxury ocean liner, the SS Antonia Graza, lost at sea. Forty years later, the crew of salvage tugboat, the Arctic Warrior, discover the same ship drifting in the Bering Sea. However, fortune quickly gives way to horror when the salvage crew discovers that something still haunts the ocean liner’s halls.

Ghost Ship Boasts An Impressive Opening Set-Piece

Very few horror movies can claim to have an opening as impressive as Ghost Ship. First, director Steve Beck adopts old-fashioned aesthetics for his opening credits. They fit the time period in which the movie’s opening is set. Furthermore, Beck’s stylistic choice promises audiences some fun, cartoonish horror. And for about five minutes, Beck delivers on that promise.

…not much could sap the fun of watching arms on an upper torso reaching to grasp their severed lower torso.

Without a doubt, the opening ball scene is Grand Guignol horror at its best. From the setup to the delivery, Ghost Ship executes a truly gruesome death set-piece. Even though you know what’s just happened, it takes a second or two to process. The sight of bodies slowly splitting in two with viscera spilling onto the floor is the stuff of horror fans’ dreams. To some extent, the CGI effects date the movie, but early 2000’s horror was rife with it. Truthfully, not much could sap the fun of watching arms on an upper torso reaching to grasp their severed lower torso.

Ghost Ship Struggles To Get Out Of Port

Sadly, Ghost Ship sinks faster than the Titanic after its glorious opening. Nothing that follows this scene comes close to capturing this irreverent fun. In fact, Ghost Ship is dreadfully dull for the rest of its runtime. Unimaginative. Derivative. Lazy. These are just a few of the adjectives that Ghost Ship brings to mind. You’ll find more scares in an episode of Breaker High. Though Beck has an eye for horror visuals, he struggles to stage atmosphere or suspense. Apart from the movie’s lack of suspense, clunky flashbacks and lazy expository dialogue cling to Ghost Ship like barnacles.

Ghost Ship Wastes A Good Cast

After that opening scene, Ghost Ship will struggle to maintain your attention. Arguably, you’ll be left picking out the familiar faces from the cast that went on to better things (or not). First, Ghost Ship saddles former ER star Julianna Margulies with the task floating this sinking ship. If this movie was meant to kickstart a movie career for her, it failed miserably. Mark Hanlon and John Pogue’s screenplay gives the always dependable Gabriel Byrne little to do. Today, Isaiah Washington is a Grey’s Anatomy trivia question. At least a young Karl Urban had Star Trek and Judge Dredd on the horizon.

Ghost Ship A Dull Trip For Horror Fans

Like the studio that produced it, Ghost Ship’s brilliance flickers very briefly. Contrary to collective nostalgia, any good will generated by its opening scene evaporates quickly. Outside of its first 10 minutes, Ghost Ship is dull and absent of any scares or tension. Sadly, there’s no critical re-appraisal in Ghost Ship’s future. This is just a water-logged movie.

Final Verdict: Just Bad

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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