Once again last year, producers Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver pulled together a horror movie in time for Halloween. The two have done so the past few years. None of the three movies have been particularly noteworthy or original, but the producers have attracted a talented cast each time out and, made for cheap, the movies continue to turn a profit. "Ghost Ship" isn't as horrible as "13 Ghosts", but it doesn't manage the creepy, B-movie fun of their 1999 remake of "House on Haunted Hill". While "Ghost Ship" does manage a decent scare or two, it's certainly not as memorable as the picture that beat it at the box office: Gore Verbinski's American remake of "The Ring".
"Ghost Ship" offers a somewhat new (I guess "Deep Rising" and "Virus" were sort of similar) take on a fairly old formula (the picture takes pieces of "The Haunting", "Event Horizon" and other films both new and old). The film focuses on a salvage crew (Gabriel Byrne, Juliana Marguiles and others) in the Bering sea who nearly smack into a lost ship in the middle of the night. Seeking rewards, the crew ventures in, only to find that the ship - you guessed it - is haunted. In this case, it's haunted by the passengers who were killed in its last voyage.
Unlike Beck's debut with "Ghosts", I actually found aspects of "Ship" to appreciate. The giant luxury liner of the title is remarkably creepy. The film's production design is fantastic, with every last detail of the abandoned ship thought out perfectly. The ship itself, unlike the rest of the movie, is often truly creepy. The film's production design is terrific, while the cinematography Gale Tattersall ("Pushing Tin") works with shadows and light quite well. Some of the effects are good, too - I especially like one scene where a party from the ship's past recreates itself from scratch. Unfortunately, the creepiness of the ship about as scary as "Ghost Ship" gets. After a pretty freaky opening, the next thirty minutes of the film are awfully talky, but there's still no character development here. The second half does get going, but the film never really realizes its potential nor does it realize that, like "The Ring" or "X-Files", what we don't see is scarier than what we do.
The characters we get here are generally stereotypes, not livened up much by good actors who seem bored. It's especially depressing to see that Byrne has gone from his award-worthy role in "The Usual Suspects" a few years ago to this. Byrne, Margulies, Ron Eldard and others are stuck with some rather silly lines and goofy plot twists. Overall, "Ghost Ship" isn't good, but it's not entirely terrible, either. It's simply pretty forgettable fare.
VIDEO: "Ghost Ship" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is certainly one of the finer ones by Warner Brothers recently, as the picture boasted what I would call extraordinary clarity and detail. Throughout the film, the picture boasted an almost three-dimensional appearance and impressive fine detail.
A few issues do present themselves, but they're really not much of a distraction. Some light compression artifacts were visible during a couple of scenes. On a pleasant note, no edge enhancement was seen and the print used appeared crystal clear. The film's dark, muted color palette looked accurately presented, while black level remained solid.
SOUND: "Ghost Ship" is presented by Warner Brothers in Dolby Digital 5.1. The presentation is pretty aggressive at times, but doesn't equal the kind of sonic assault of the producer's "House on Haunted Hill" remake. Talky for the most part, the surrounds really do kick in nicely during a few of the more intense action sequences. While not always aggressive, this was certainly a dynamic soundtrack, with occasional instances of strong bass. Dialogue remained clear and easily understood, while the score (and the random heavy metal songs) sounded crisp and, in the case of the heavy metal, appropriately loud.
EXTRAS: We get featurettes on the film's FX, production design and an overall "making of". The trailer and bios are also included.
Final Thoughts: "Ghost Ship" seemed like nothing more than a very average horror film, lifted above being poor or mediocre by the film's strong production design and cinematography, both of which create fairly good atmosphere. Warner Brothers has put together a fine DVD, with excellent video quality, very nice audio and a few supplements. Those in the mood for a good horror film should check out "The Ring" first. "Ghost Ship" may make for a decent rental, but only if expectations are low.