2002, R, 91 min. Directed by Steve Beck. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Emily Browning.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 25, 2002
If Ghost Ship feels like 13 Ghosts meets The Abyss to you, then you weren't watching The Abyss with the sound on. Granted, director Beck helmed the startlingly, shockingly mediocre William Castle Ghosts remake (itself a retread of a weak Sixties shocker that only appealed to pre-teens in the first place, 3-D or no 3-D), which arrived in theatres at roughly the same time as William Malone's equally non-memorable House on Haunted Hill, but neither of those can hold a corpse-candle to this meandering, sub-aquatic mess: It's so bad it's good, but only if you slide in on a freebie. Unlike those old Castle films, there are no flying skeletons breezing past your cranium, nor is there any talent remotely like the always fine Vincent Price. Instead, Ghost Ship -- produced by former HBO Tales From the Crypt heads Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver -- wallows about amid bad scripting and some rather nasty gore while masquerading as a decent spookshow thriller. Not even. Ghost Ship breaks so many cardinal rules of creepiness that it hardly bears mentioning. When salvage tug operators Byrne, Margulies, and a motley crew comprised of the soon-to-be shark bait discover a drifting Carnival Cruise liner, it looks like a fat payday for all involved. Somewhere in the Bering Strait, this tiny tug and her crew decide to tackle a giant, 200-yard, 10-story version of the Marie Celeste, with plans to tow her back to -- where? Anchorage? Juneau? Your guess is as good as mine, and Byrne's doomed character isn't saying either/or. When a mysterious adolescent spirit makes herself known to Marguiles' tough-as-nails second mate, you can tell the crew behind the film were quickly running out of ideas, but somehow the tired kid-spook trope ends up as … well, why bother? If we tell you what's up we're sure to get angry letters from Tales From the Crypt fans, who rightly think this was supposed to be No. 3 in the HBO offshoot's feature film department (right after Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood). William M. Gaines, E.C. Comics' blessed head honcho and the man who warped a thousand teenage minds, would have gagged -- Gasp! Choke! -- on this dull-as-dishwater tale that wouldn't have merited even four pages in Shock SuspenStories' earliest outing. (We shudder to think of what Al Feldstein would have thought, but surely he would have come up with a more marketable title: Ship-Shape Satan or some such.) In the interest of fairness, I should say that Ghost Ship has some of the most atmospheric neo-matte painted backgrounds (all digital, natch) that I've seen in a while; that aside, you're better off running to your local indie video store to rent the immensely better (and remarkably similar) Deep Rising.