Review by Gordon Justesen
Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington, Gabriel
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
want to show you something…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.