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Ghost Ship (2002)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/6/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/9/2009

Never underestimate the power of a movie's ending. While a good beginning and middle is certainly a good thing (and in theory, should be a necessity), a conclusion which packs a punch can make all of the difference in the world. When we think of movies like The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense, it's usually the final twist which comes to mind. (Actually, I don't think that The Usual Suspects is all that good, but there's no denying the power of the ending.) But, what about a movie which fits the flip-side of this mold? Ghost Ship is a film which has such a powerful opening scene, everything that comes afterwards pales in comparison.

Ghost Ship opens aboard the opulent cruise ship Antonia Graza in 1962. I won't spoil the opening for those who haven't seen the film, but let's just say that something bad happens. The story then leaps ahead to the present, where are introduced to a nautical salvage crew led by Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), and including Epps (Julianna Margulies), Dodge (Ron Eldard), Greer (Isaiah Washington), Santos (Alex Dimitriades) and Munder (Karl Urban). They make their money buy finding abandoned ships and towing them to port with their tugboat. While celebrating a profitable find, Murphy is approached by Jack (Desmond Harrington), a pilot who has spotted a large ship in the Bering Sea. Murphy agrees to investigate and Jack insists on joining the expedition. Once at sea, the group finds the long-since abandoned Antonia Graza floating alone in the ocean. They board it and decide that they can tow it in and make a fortune. However, it soon becomes apparent that they aren't alone on the ship, and Epps keeps seeing a little girl (Emily Browning). As the group prepares the vessel, the Antonio Graza's dark past becomes evident and the crew realizes that they have become the prey.

Ghost Ship was the third entry from Dark Castle, a production company created by producers Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, and Gilbert Adler. The company's first two films, House on Haunted Hill and Thirteen Ghosts, had been remakes of William Castle movies, and both had been very good. Each took a classic horror tale, and then added a familiar cast and modern filmmaking techniques to create a fun filmgoing experience. Ghost Ship is not a direct remake, but it's clearly influenced by the 1980 film Death Ship, which tells of a ship roaming the ocean looking for victims. (The poser art for both movies is very similar.) Ghost Ship also contains a dose of The Shining and Event Horizon.

As noted above, the film's opening is very powerful. So much so that if you ask people if they've seen Ghost Ship, the beginning is most likely what they will talk about. What follows is a competently made, and semi-interesting story in which the group attempts to salvage the cruise ship, which then turns into them simply trying to survive aboard it. This section of the film features the requisite scenes in which the crew members experience strange things and then begin to die off one-by-one.

In the opening, I noted films which were famous for their twists endings. Unfortunately, this is where Ghost Ship fails. Things are going along fine when the movie decides that it needs a long and drawn-out flashback sequence to explain what is happening on the ship. This hampers the movie for two reasons. First, and foremost, this isn't necessary. Why can't the ship simply be haunted? A simple explanation could have worked, but the flashback goes on for quite some time. The second problem here is that the explanation is explained very well. It's the cinematic equivalent of someone mumbling an excuse under their breath and leaving the room. And the "shock" ending is just silly.

The idea of being trapped on board a haunted ship is certainly an interesting one, but Ghost Ship squanders this premise. Director Steve Beck has given the film a slick look, but there are no creepy images here. The story spirals out of control in the third act and the movie becomes too supernatural for its own good.

Ghost Ship is the worst cruise ever on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on grain and no defects from the source material. Despite the fact that this film is dark at times, the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. The colors look very good, most notably reds and blues. The level of detail is very good, as is the depth. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. (Much higher than Warner's averages in the past.) The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, as they are nicely detailed and show good separation. The scenes inside of the ship show off these stereo effects, as well as some nice surround sound numbers in the mix. The sound does a nice job of going from front to rear. The subwoofer also gets involved with this, as explosions and creepy noise kick in the bass.

The Ghost Ship Blu-ray Disc offers a few extras. "Max on Set: Ghost Ship" (15 minutes) is a fairly straight-forward making of featurette which offers comments from the cast and filmmakers, as well as a wealth of on-set footage. "Secrets of the Antonia Graza" is a set-top puzzle game which unlocks four "stories" about characters from the film. "Visual Effects" (6 minutes) looks at the fact that there was no full-size ship used in the film. The special effects makeup artists walk us through some of the nastiness in "A Closer Look at the Gore" (6 minutes). "Designing the Ghost Ship" (6 minutes) shows us the construction and design of the sets in the film. The extras are rounded out by a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Not Falling" by Mudvayne (which is comprised exclusively of film clips) and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long