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Sunday’s With… “Ghost Ship”, Dark Castle’s 1st Original Film!

Ghost Ship

In October of 2002, Dark Castle Entertainment released their third feature film. In breaking with the tradition of the first two, this film served as their first venture into original film making, moving away from the Will Castle remakes. This is my Sunday with… Ghost Ship.

Ghost Ship

Release Date: October 25, 2002

Run Time: 90 minutes

Starring: Gabriel Byrne

Director: Steve Beck

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%

Robs Score: 4.5/10

“Congratulations. You found a boat, in the middle of the ocean of all places.” – Epps

Ghost Ship

L to R: Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, Karl Urban, Desmond Harrington, Julianna Margulies, Gabriel Byrne.

In the summer of 1962, the passengers of the Italian luxury liner Antonia Graza are enjoying a beautiful evening. They are on the deck of the ship being serenaded by the beautiful singer Francesca.  Katie Harwood (Emily Browning), the youngest passenger, is travelling by herself and thus very bored. The crew and captain go out of their way to make her feel better and eventually she joins the captain on the dance floor. As the passengers are enjoying their evening a mysterious figure pulls a lever that unravels a spool of steel wire. The spool eventually snaps and rips across the dance floor, leaving everyone except for Katie torn in half. Forty years later a salvage team of Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), Epps (Julianna Margulies), Dodge (Ron Eldrad), Greer (Isaiah Washington), Munder (Karl Urban), and Santos (Alex Dimitriades) are celebrating their recent haul. Their celebration is interrupted by Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), a weather service pilot who informs the crew that he has found a huge ship floating in the Bering Sea. Due to the fact that the ship is floating in international waters, it is fair game for anyone to claim. The crew agrees to Ferriman’s terms and they all set out to find the ship. The crew almost sails directly into the side of the floating liner. After the close call Murphy recognizes the ship as the Antonia Graza, the fabled cruise ship that has been missing. The crew is intrigued by this find as well as the wealth they’d find after bringing the ship in. The crew boards the ocean liner and they begin to explore. As they explore the ship several odd things are found, including a pool full of bullet shells as well as a modern watch, which alerts the crew that they were not the first to discover the ship, and may not be alone. Epps also believes she has seen a young girl on the lower level of the ship. The further they go into the ship the more problems they discover. The ship is sinking and needs to be repaired before they can bring it in. The ship is also hiding a secret – boxes filled with gold. The gold brings on discussions of why it was there and whether it was stolen or not. After a group vote they decide to take the gold and leave the ship. As they attempt to unload the gold a mishap on their salvage ship, Arctic Warrior, causes it to explode, killing Santos. Now, stranded on the ghost ship the crew is forced to try and fix the ship and find a way to get home. What caused the explosion, and what horrors lie ahead in the mysterious Antonia Graza?

Ghost Ship served as Dark Castle’s first original production, and unfortunately it is not an impressive one (despite what UMU’s Steven may say). They take the haunted house premise, which was done better in their first two films, and change the setting. A decaying luxury liner, the sea at night, a creepy ghost girl, and a really hot songstress – all of the ingredients for a solid horror film, yet they squander them all. Instead of creating a somewhat original feeling, Ghost Ship follows the same format as almost every other haunted house films that have come before it. The outcome is a very predictable, disappointing and not scary film. The film makers try to throw a surprise supernatural twist at the end, but by the time it is revealed, there is no time to capitalize on it. The dialogue was nothing special and the use of aptronym was childish. Jack Ferriman was in fact the ferry man, come on now! Obvious plot holes also hampered the enjoyment of the film, however Ghost Ship showed the studios ability to produce original content.

With that being said, there were a few cool scenes in this movie, as well as the promise of something special. The flash back scenes in my opinion were the best as they actually portrayed mystery and a film concept that I could have gotten into. The opening scene has an amazing feel and style. Everything from the color and font of the opening credits to the overall look of the scene was intriguing. In those few minutes we were given a glimpse of the promise the film had. Just by looking at Francesca you knew she wasn’t what she appeared to be, add the fact why was Katie on this ship herself, what was her back story? I actually would have preferred the film be about the events of that night instead of the typical haunted house theme. Seeing the events play out in front of you would have given the film the original vibe it lacked. The cartoonish over the top violence of the opening was especially enjoyable, if not a bit silly. In keeping in that vein I feel the film would have been much better.

Mark Hanlon, the writer of the film, had originally penned a very different script for Ghost Ship. Originally intended to be a psychological thriller in which the salvage crew each go mad and plot ways to kill the other in order of having the gold for themselves; this version of the film would have featured far less supernatural aspects, and would have removed a lot of what dragged the film down, especially the whole souls to hell aspect. Some of this original idea can still be seen in the film when we see Greer being tempted by Francesca as well as Murphy reverting back to alcoholism. This demonstrated their characters “losing it” as you would. A more psychological approach involving the crew dealing with their own inner demons would have played up the isolated setting more, and given the viewer a more organic, less jump scare driven film. Just imagine what could have been!

Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, and Desmond Harrington lead the cast. Solid actors and actresses in their own right, however they had little to work with here. It was disappointing to see the talent of Gabriel Byrne wasted. It was odd to see Karl Urban as a pony tailed jokester, instead of his normal ass kicker persona. Emily Browning would be the standout in my opinion as she portrayed creepy, yet heartbroken so well. As a metal head I loved the inclusion of Mudvayne’s “Not Falling” in the film, however it is absent from John Frizell’s soundtrack.

Ghost Ship opened third at the box office and has made over $68,000,000 in its run. It has received almost unanimously bad reviews, and is in my opinion the worst of the Dark Castle films. The biggest credit to this film is the “what could have been” line of thinking. This film had the ingredients, unfortunately they were mixed together all wrong.

From producers Joel Silver (The Matrix trilogy and the Lethal Weapon series) and Robert Zemeckis (Castaway, What Lies Beneath) comes this ghostly tale of terror! In a remote region of the Bering Sea, a boat salvage crew discovers the eerie remains of a grand passenger liner thought lost for more than 40 years. Once onboard, the crew must confront the ship’s horrific past and face the ultimate fight for their lives.

(Rob Texter)

About the author

Rob Texter

Rob is a self-appointed horror and monster movie nerd. He's got a pretty sizable 'Big Trouble' collection and a real, manly man-crush on Kurt Russell. Favorite monster move? Wrong question - "As ole Rob Texter says at a time like this, my favorite horror/science fiction director? John Carpenter, not even a question." His marriage proposal to Megan Fox is still pending

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