We’re in 1962, aboard MS Antonia Graza, an Italian ocean liner. People there are having fun with song, dance and food. Katie, a young girl who appears to be alone on the ship, gets an offer from the captain himself to dance with her. All seems to be fun and games for everyone aboard, until all hell quite literally breaks loose. A wire cord severs all the dancing people in two, while the people who were enjoying their meals starts puking their guts out due to poisoning. The only survivor is Katie, who was short enough to avoid the wire from cutting her. The captain, whom she was just dancing with, was not so lucky though…
Forty years later, we get to meet a salvage crew, who is approached by a mysterious guy named Jack Ferriman. He tells them that he’s a weather service pilot, and he spotted a vessel adrift in the Bering Sea…which means that this vessel can be claimed by whoever brings it back. The crew, although not entirely persuaded at first, decides to head out on their salvage tug, the Arctic Warrior. When they approach the vessel, and realize that it’s the Antonia Graza that mysteriously disappeared back in 1962, they’re immediately aware of the riches that can be found on board. And indeed: after boarding it, they soon discover nine boxes, all containing gold bars. But, of course, things go awry pretty quickly after that, and supernatural events start happening. The salvage crew are met with the possibility that the ship’s long-dead passengers are still in board.
Ghost Ship is a horror film from 2002, directed by Steve Beck, whom the year before directed Thir13en Ghosts. Those two were his only full-length movies, both of them being Dark Castle Entertainment films. This year was the film’s 20th anniversary, and how does it hold up? Well…considering that the film received mostly negative reviews, and Julianna Margulies (who had the role of Epps from the salvage crew) even disowned the movie like a bad offspring or something, I would say that taking a look back at it now, it didn’t deserve all the flak it got. While the opening is undoubtedly the best part of the entire movie, and the rest is moving along like a regular slow-burn haunted house story (just set on a boat instead), it’s still entertaining enough for a watch and even manages to pack in a bit of atmosphere as they’re searching the abandoned ship.
Despite what one might think of Ghost Ship as a whole, there’s no doubt that the opening scene remains one of those scenes that are memorable even to this day, and I even dare say that it’s got a place in the horror genre’s best openings. Too bad the rest of the film isn’t quite up to par with it…overall, it’s somewhat cheesy, but it also appears to be fairly self-aware of the fact. And of course, there’s this…twist at the end, which is partly so silly you’ll feel tempted to roll your eyes a little, yet it is also weirdly clever, which makes it work like a little bit of a saving grace by at least offering something more than just a killer (no pun intended) opening scene. Mostly it’s best enjoyed as a slightly cheesy popcorn flick, and I guess I’ve already made it obvious that the appetizer and dessert taste better than the main course. It’s far from being a masterpiece, but far from being truly bad either.
Director: Steve Beck
Writers: Mark Hanlon, John Pogue
Country & year: USA, Australia, 2002
Actors:Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington, Alex Dimitriades, Karl Urban, Emily Browning, Francesca Rettondini, Boris Brkic, Bob Ruggiero