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GHOST SHIP

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington, Gabriel Byrne
Director: Steve Beck
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2003

“I want to show you something…”

Film ***

You’ve got to hand it to producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis. Their production company, Dark Castle Entertainment, really knows how to fashion up a good old scare fest. The horror genre has been in a slump lately, with the exception of standouts such as The Ring, but since 1999, the films of Dark Castle have also stand out as among the best in recent horror moviemaking. The first entry was the visually dazzling remake of House on Haunted Hill and in 2001 came the ultimately engaging Thirteen Ghosts. Both were remakes of classic horror movies from renowned director William Castle, who is indeed represented in the Dark Castle company. Now comes Ghost Ship, which like the first two movies, is a thrilling scare ride, and manages to throw in some plot and character development along the way.

This is the first film to come from Dark Castle that is entirely original and not a remake, making it all the more engaging. The movie opens with a sequence that I think will go down as one of the most beautifully gruesome scenes in horror movie history. It opens in 1962, on a cruise ship known as the Antonia Graza, where a dance ball is being held on the main deck. I will not dare spoil the eye-popping incident that occurs, but trust me; your jaw is likely to drop by the sequence’s end.

Cut to present day, and we are introduced to a salvage crew who specializes in recovering long lost ships or sea artifacts. The crew is led by the rugged Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) and the co-owner of the company, Epps (Julianna Margulies). After a successfully executed job, they come into contact with a man named Ferriman (Desmond Herrington), a weather spotting pilot. He presents the crew with photos of what appears as a long lost ship which has been missing for nearly 40 years. They are skeptic at first, but as Murphy says, “If sea gives you the opportunity, you take it.” And they agree to let Ferriman go along with them to locate the ship, which may indeed contain a big time fortune.

They do indeed come across the long lost ocean liner, which is of course, completely vacant. However, not too long after separating to explore the ship, the crew begins to have individual encounters with strange settings and hallucinations that may not be so. It soon becomes clear that the ship is haunted, and the crew soon become stranded after losing their boat in an accidental explosion, with no other option but to possibly sail to shore.

I’d be lying if I said the movie doesn’t follow a certain horror movie formula, but Ghost Ship manages to throw in some neat twists with its story, and surprisingly, it doesn’t go that much over the top. Epps has unique encounter with the ghost of a little girl named Katie, who is the key to revealing the true fate of the ship 40 years ago. This particular sequence is a standout grabber and manages to do a superb job of revelation through some nice camera effects. It also manages to tack on a uniquely surprising ending that should create a giddy grin to the viewer’s face. I know it did that for me.

Ghost Ship, like many horror movies, doesn’t require much use of the mind in order to enjoy. It’s a high-quality gore-fest of the highest order, with a spectacular production value and effects work. Any fan of contemporary horror movies will indeed get their moneys worth with this noteworthy effort.

Video ****

This is a grand as usual presentation from WB, which had me reflecting to how equally good the discs for Thirteen Ghosts and House on Haunted Hill were. The anamorphic picture takes full advantage of the elaborate set pieces, most notably on the darkened interior of the ship. The scenes that use visual effects are nothing short of breathtaking, as is pretty much the presentation as a whole.

Audio ****

DVD has perfected and enhanced the effect of modern day horror movies, and the 5.1 mix on Ghost Ship is indeed a prime example. The set pieces and effects sequences provide terrific moments of dynamic range, including a key sequence midway through the movie, which includes the mixing of gore, music, and effects. Like Thirteen Ghosts, this movie is all about its sound and fury, and this outstanding audio track illustrates this completely.

Features ***1/2

First off, I have to give props to Warner for providing a first, which is a killer 3-D package that reveals a skull face at the front of the ship, which is a very nice touch. I’d like to see more packages like this in the future.

Extra-wise, this is quite a package as well. Although a commentary track is nowhere to be found, we still are supplied some neat features. “Unlock the Secrets of the Antonia Graza” offers unseen footage and untold tales. Also included is a Cinemax featurette, 3 additional documentaries; “A Closer Look at the Gore”, “Designing the Ghost Ship”, and “Visual Effects”. Lastly, there is a music video for the Mudvayne song Not Falling, and a trailer.

Summary:

Ghost Ship is a professionally made horror movie, complete with superb effects, and some wonderfully gory moments. A must see for all horror fans.