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  • Writer's pictureMr. Pat

Ghost Ship

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

News has changed so much from when I first started as a photographer almost 12 years ago. If you had told me then that I'd be able to produce newscasts from home, or that news station would be transitioning to pre-recorded shows, or that Toledo would lose its NBC station, I don't think I'd believe you. But here we are in the Year of Lord 2023 and it's kind of sad to see some of these changes. Oh well... you're not here for that, you're here to talk about...

Ghost Ship (2002)

I had watched this movie when it first came out, holy crap... 21 years ago?! Anyway, I didn't remember much about it except how one of the characters, Greer, was killed. I remember not caring for the film, but I wanted to give it another shot. So, would time make me think of it more fondly, or would my initial thoughts be confirmed? Well, read on!

The movie follows the exploits of a salvage crew in the Bering Sea. When we first meet them we find that they are very good at the job and not so great at following orders, but damn it, they get results! After a successful mission that almost ended in disaster, they head to land, tugging their prize behind them. While drinking, well the captain, Murphy, played by Gabriel Byrne, abstains; a young weather pilot allows them to bring in a massive, abandoned ocean liner. With a prize guaranteed to make them millionaires, the crew decides to leave land, and Greer's fiance for one more job. They find the ship, tow it back and all get rich. Just kidding, the voyage goes horribly, horribly wrong.

The movie has its faults, but one thing that can't be taken away from it, and gets deservedly universal praise, is the beginning. There is no more eye-opening and shocking beginning of a movie than this one. I don't want to type out what it is because the movie is worth watching for that sequence alone. If you go the Frank Costanza route and walk into this movie fresh, there's not much that can prepare you for the opening scene. Seriously, it's awesome. It's such a happy scene, but there's a sense of dread that hangs over the whole thing, and when it finally happens... damn.

This movie is a lot better than I remembered and the cast does their best to elevate the material. It's funny, each of them signed on to make this movie when it was more of a psychological thriller. The idea was to make it like The Shining on a Boat. There were going to be ghosts, but not that active. Instead, they were going to be feeding the crew's insecurity and paranoia. But when the cast got off the plane the script had been changed to be more of a straight horror. I think that's the reason the cast was so good. I'm not sure any of the main characters would have been so keen on this role if they knew what they were getting into. I may be in the minority here, but I don't like the original idea for the movie. If I wanted to watch The Shining I'd go watch The Shining.

One thing I liked about the movie was there were some helpful ghosts, but it also confused me; I'll get to that later. There's a little girl ghost who had a real rough go of it. I liked the character and the actress did well with the small role. The captain of the liner also made an appearance unveiling a big secret to Murphy, but probably a little too late. I love the idea of dueling ghost battles. If there are hundreds of souls trapped on board a ship, they can't all be malevolent, some should be pretty pissed at the thing keeping them there and want to help innocent people. You even see that a lot of those killed were good people so it doesn't make sense that only two would try to help. But that’s a minor nit.

I have one major complaint about this movie and it is one I've never complained about before. I did not like the soundtrack at all. It's very early 2000s and seems out of place with the story they’re telling. There's a scene where the ghost, Katie, is revealing to one of the crew, Epps, what happened the night everyone died and it plays some weird alternative rock song that completely took me out of the movie. It's just this extremely brutal montage of people getting slaughtered and the song kind of sucks. It's a techno song with a guy whispering through most of it. It feels like a song that should be playing in a heist movie while the robbers are making their first moves inside the bank/casino/jewelry store and not a flashback of people getting murdered. I'm listening to it now to see if it's as bad as I remembered, and yeah, it's worse. I don’t know if Mudvayne is still a thing, but they play prominently in the soundtrack.

I have one more complaint I want to mention before I wrap things up and it's a problem too common in horror. The characters spend a lot of time split up. I understand the want for some distance when you've been on a tiny boat with them for so long, but they learn pretty early on that something's wrong with this ship and it makes no sense that they'd go wander off on their own. Even if they didn't believe in ghosts, Eomer (sorry, Karl Urban is Eomer, that’s just how it is) almost died by falling through a weakened floor, so why go off on your own?

The ending is kind of cool but takes a sharp turn to "meh" right before we cut to credits. In the final scene awe are treated to a very loud, and also out of place, Mudvayne song. With that said, I liked the movie. It uses its setting to the full effect, it has a spooky atmosphere throughout and the baddie is interesting!

7.5 Dr. Chainsaws!

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