Ghost Ship begins winningly with elegant-pink opening credits and a Love Boat-esque score exuding from the speakers. The camera offers the audience a view of a gorgeous Italian ocean liner on a night 40 years past. An olive-skinned Mediterranean beauty sings to a packed dance floor on deck. Only one person isn’t enthralled, a child named Katie (Emily Browning) who is sitting alone on the sidelines, too young to participate. But as the next song begins, a jolly old man invites Katie onto the dance floor where she twirls with the others beneath a system of romantic lights strung on steel wires. It is a beautiful scene.
Then someone trips the wire system, somehow sending a single, taut line slicing across the dance floor. It goes through cleanly, catching every single person on deck – every person except Katie, that is, who is just barely short enough to miss decapitation. Instead, she is left as the sole on-screen witness to one of the most gory film oddities in recent memory.
And if you arrived to the movie late, or if you simply weren’t paying attention, don’t worry. The scene will be played again.
Yes, Ghost Ship is that type of movie.
The type that only offers the nice, sweet moments so it can rip them away, leaving the audience members with their mouths agape.
Following the dance floor scene, the movie jumps to the present day where Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) and his crew of ship salvagers rake in a daring find. They are a close-knit bunch, happy and hard working, with plenty of potential. You see where this is going.
The group gets a tip on its latest adventure from a mousy airplane pilot (Desmond Harrington) in a bar who recently flew over a mysterious rusty vessel that still manages to be recognizable to the audience. The pilot accompanies Murphy and his crew to bring in the vessel, and the plot is officially on its way.
The performances, along with just about everything else in Ghost Ship, leave plenty to be desired, but the biggest disappointment by far is Byrne.
Not that he’s particularly awful in his role. It’s just such a poor choice for an otherwise respect-able actor. Ghost Ship is the latest in a line of supernatural thrillers for Byrne (End of Days and Stigmata were others), so he must be having at least a little fun with these films. Some of Byrne’s scenes in Ghost Ship, however, are reminiscent of a far better ship-related role he had in The Usual Suspects, and the similarities only make it more difficult to appreciate what he’s doing here.
That being said, Ghost Ship is not a complete loss. The fast-paced musical sequence in which the ghost of Katie unravels the sinister plot for the embattled heroine, Epps (Julianna Margulies), nearly makes the entire film worthwhile on its own.
And there are a few funny moments: An engine mechanic speaks lovingly to a picture of his classic car back at home and two doobie-smoking welders remain relatively unfazed by the ghosts around them.
And while no promises can be made that any of these characters will actually survive, the final scene offers up a sequel setup so obvious that it might leave some fans referring to the movie as Ghost Ship 1.
So remember, if you decide to skip this one, don’t worry. It will come to theaters again.
That’s just the type of movie Ghost Ship is.
Contact Dustin Dwyer at firstname.lastname@example.org