Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Ghost Ship

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

GHOST SHIP

4/10

USA 2002 : Steve Beck : 91mins

From the numbnuts production combo behind House on Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts comes yet another brisk and cheesy slice of hammy horror. While those two were remakes of gimmicky cheapo shockers from the sixties, Ghost Ship is supposedly original though virtually everything in it is nicked from other movies even the title (a 1943 Val Lewton-produced quickie) and the skull-fronted-ship poster image (Death Ship from 1980).

While various key moments recall The Shining and Event Horizon, the main source of plunder is 1998s guilty pleasure Deep Rising, as a team of thicko seadog salvagers (including former ER co-stars Julianna Margulies and Ron Eldard) encounter supernatural-type shenanigans when they foolishly explore a Marie Celeste-ish ocean-liner. We have to wade through an endless series of rickety and tediously predictable on-board scares (delicious food turns into worms, etc) before all is revealed in an amusingly loopy slab of last-reel exposition. The final twist, however, sees Beck and scriptwriters Mark Hanlon and John Pogue disappointingly revert to lame-brain form.

As the salvage captain, A knackered-looking Gabriel Byrne proves a poor substitute for Deep Risings Treat Williams, and his whole crew is disappointingly bilge-water dull – though Two Towers discovery Karl Urban does a passable Yank accent as a scruffy expert spot-welder. Theyre all picked off in strict traditional order (the cheeky Hispanic goes first, followed by the muscular black guy) in an enterprise that expends its full ration of flair in an entertainingly gory, thoroughly misleading, body-slicing prologue. This opening is so much better than the rest (just like Haunted Hill, in fact) that you do wonder whether director Beck was in charge or whether he passed on the task to his assistant Brian Fletcher, as Fletchers previous credits include The Matrix and another, far superior, terror-on-the-high-seas romp, Dead Calm.

14th January, 2003
(seen same day, UCI MetroCentre, Gateshead)

by Neil Young

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