Way back when we first started this year’s horrorthon, Arleigh shared a horror scene that he loved. That scene was the opening few minutes of the 2002 horror-at-sea film, Ghost Ship.
That scene featured a few dozen wealthy cruise ship passengers all getting bisected by a thin wire cord. While a young girl named Kate (Emily Browning) watches, everyone on the ship’s dance floor literally falls to pieces. Torsos slip off of legs. Bodies split in half. The captain’s head literally splits in two. While gallons of blood gush everywhere, people vainly try to reattach their limbs. Actually, some of them can’t even figure out which limb belongs to them. By the time everyone’s collapsed, there’s a lot of arms and legs to sort through.
In short, it’s an absolute mess. I wouldn’t want to be the person assigned to clean up after all that.
It’s also a rather brilliant opening, one that only takes a minute to go from romance and sophistication to bloody dismemberment. It’s definitely the one moment that everyone remembers about Ghost Ship, which is a bit of a problem because, once that scene is done, there’s still 85 minutes of film to sit through. Ghost Ship‘s opening is so shocking and visceral that there’s no way that the rest of the film can live up to it.
As for the rest of the film, it deals with a boat salvage crew. Gabriel Byrne is Murphy, the captain. Julianne Margulies is Maureen Epps, whose name might as well be Ellen Ripley. Ron Eldard is Dodge, who is in love with Epps. And then there’s Karl Urban, Isiah Washington, and Alex Dimitriades, who are all playing characters who you know are going to be doomed as soon as you see them. When they’re told by a pilot named Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) that he’s spotted a ghost ship in international waters, they set out to claim it for themselves.
Of course, what Jack has spotted is the same cruise ship where, forty years before, everyone was chopped in half. After Murphy, Epps, and the crew board the ship, they discover a large amount of gold. They also end up seeing a lot of ghosts, including the young girl from the start of the movie. To their credit, the crew decides to leave the ship as quickly as they can. Unfortunately, after their tugboat explodes, escape appears to be impossible and it becomes obvious that they have been lured to the cruise ship for a very specific purpose.
The film encourages us to wonder what the ship wants from the salvage crew but the answer to that question is never really in doubt. For that matter, it’s not really a shock when it turns out that one member of the boarding party isn’t what he claims to be. Despite being a bit predictable, Ghost Ship isn’t a bad film. It has a reputation for being disappointing but actually it’s an atmospheric and competently directed horror film. Though the characters are all thinly drawn, the talented cast does their best to try to bring them to life. If the film ultimately doesn’t seem to work as well as it should, it’s largely because nothing that follows can match the power of that opening. You watching the film waiting for a scene that’ll match that opening scene and when it never comes, it’s hard not to be disappointed.