I first watched Ghost Ship when a friend came up to visit me and my daughter. Knowing my love of terrible horror movies and also Karl Urban, she brought the DVD with her. Armed with a Bloody Mary apiece and a solid supply of Diet Coke for my daughter, we sat down to watch.
GHOST SHIP: “BRRRRRZIP*SPLOOSH*!”
GHOST SHIP: *drip drip drip*
GHOST SHIP: “Pretty cool, huh?”
US: “JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL, I GUESS THAT HAPPENED.”
I’m really not much of a gorehound, and even I had to concede that Ghost Ship started out with a pretty darn effective bang. I think we might actually have paused the DVD to stare at the TV for a minute, and also to make our Bloody Marys a bit stiffer. Unfortunately, we didn’t really need to bother.
I wanted this movie to be good. I really did. For one thing, Karl Urban. For another thing, a haunted luxury ocean liner ought to be just about the coolest thing there is. Salt-crusted chandeliers! Mysteriously abandoned staterooms! Eerie big-band music coming from nowhere! Pools of creepily reflecting water! For God’s sake, how can you go wrong? Well, like this, apparently.
Watching Ghost Ship is like watching a little gem of a five-minute short tacked onto the front of an Uwe Boll movie. It’s like the opening scene was done by a completely different director and crew who then – feeling that they’d made a pretty good showing for themselves – walked off and left the set there to be cannibalized by someone far less competent. The plot setup starts out reasonably enough – a marine salvage crew gets hired by a guy named Ferriman (did you catch that subtle hint? Huh? Did you? DID YOU?) to loot an abandoned cruise ship called the Antonia Graza. The crew – headed by Gabriel Byrne (oh, Gabriel, dude) and Julianna Margulies – find any number of strange things, including the ghost of a little girl, a bunch of gold, and the ghost of a torch singer who lures Isaiah Washington to a gruesome death. (He’s supposed to be engaged but apparently figures that a bit of ghost nookie won’t count against him at the altar. Don’t be That Guy, Isaiah.)
Anyway, their own ship blows up, leaving them stranded on the ocean liner. Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) continues to be creepy. Karl Urban falls afoul of some sort of machinery and gets turned into a cheap, folded-up Karl Urban Halloween costume complete with the shabby plastic mask with the elastic string that breaks as soon as you look at it. In between, the ghost kid shows Margulies a bunch of flashbacks that come together into a really improbable plot that involves the crew killing every one of the passengers so they can steal the gold (because apparently there was no easier way to do that), then turning on each other and killing each other off. Finally only the torch singer is left alive; and Ferriman, who is revealed to be some sort of demon or something (INORITE WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED) kills her off by swinging her from a meat hook. So all these souls are trapped in the ship, because apparently Ferriman has some sort of trapped-souls quota to meet, and it’s up to Margulies to free them by blowing up the ship.
Of course, it turns out in the end that all she manages to do is annoy Ferriman, who now has to start over with only the spirits of her crew, but whatever. It’s not like the movie wasn’t sort of pointless anyway.
So what’s the verdict? Ghost Ship is bad. There’s just no sugar-coating it. This is a bad, bad movie. The plot is ridiculous, the acting is sort of awful even from ordinarily unobjectionable actors, and the action is tedious, formulaic, and predictable. (You named the character Ferriman? Really? Did you think no one would notice or something? Also, thanks for earworming me with that asinine “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” song. Really. The ’80s just were not bad enough the first time around.) The first scene gets three stars, the rest of the movie gets zero stars, and on weighted balance it’s a one-star movie overall.