Ghost Ship (2002)
Directed by Steve Beck

Starring Desmond Harrington Gabriel Byrne Isaiah Washington Julianna Margulies Ron Eldard

Although not quite as fun as Beck's last horror offering "Thirteen Ghosts," "Ghost Ship" is an entertaining, silly, R-rated horror offering, which delivers more of the goods fear fans want than most of the spooky films that made their way to theaters in 2002.

The film opens with one of the most fantasmagoric freak accidents ever imagined - one that dramatically kills almost the entire crew and guest lineup of a 1962 luxury cruise during a dance party on deck. From this stellar opening, you know you're watching an R-rated, deliciously explicit horror movie that has no intention of holding back for the censors. The scene definitely pushes the envelope.

Flash forward some 40 years. The hip young crew of a tug boat, led by crusty captain Gabriel Byrne, are told of an abandoned sea vessel in the middle of the ocean by a pilot. They decide to go searching for the ship, hoping to salvage it. Eventually, what they discover is the now very spooky and rusty 1962 vessel we saw in the opening of the film, adrift in the middle of the ocean with no one on board.

Naturally the ship is haunted, and the tug boat crew begins to see and hear things - including the little girl in a dress whom we initially saw survive the freak accident of the film's opener and a sultry singer who manages to seduce one of the drunken sailors to his doom in a scene clearly inspired by the ghost seduction scene of Kubrick's "The Shining." There's a lot of "Shining" in this movie, including a dancehall that comes alive with ghostly party guests. The ship here is essentially an Overlook Hotel on the ocean. When some members of the tug boat crew die, we notice that their blood seems to be soaked up by the ship. It also isn't long before the crew learns that there had been recently been some other salvagers aboard the ship too -- and they're all dead.

Beck makes tremendous use of the eeriness of an abandoned sea vessel. Big boats can be scary. The concept was used in modern horror once before with the poorly received "Death Ship," and is done real justice here. Just the image of the rusted, wasted ship on the ocean provides a nice chill.

Where "Ghost Ship" falls flat is in the story department, when we're introduced to an immortal being that, for some reason or another, wants to trap the souls trapped on the dead vessel - or something like that. Like most ghost stories, there's also a mystery surrounding the deaths of the guests and crew forty years earlier that the spirits are working to uncover for the living The film's "twist" ending also doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But what it lacks in story it makes up for in atmosphere, gore and raw sleaze. Gorgeous Italian actress Francesca Rettondini is even given a gratuitous nude scene, just to remind viewers that this film has its heart in the right place, delivering a true eighties-style R-rated horror film.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives in "Ghost Ship," a very fun horror flick. From the producers of "House on Haunted Hill" and "Thirteen Ghosts" (including Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver, two names behind the "Tales From the Crypt" franchise), "Ship" shares some of the same cast and a lot of the same spirit as those films. Not a classic, but a solid vessel. Just don't expect a "Ghost Ship 2." ase of this film in 2002.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore


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