(movie review written in 2003)
Once again last year, producers Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver pulled together a horror movie in time for Halloween. None of the three movies have been without their share of flaws, but the producers have attracted a talented cast each time out and, made for cheap, the movies continue to turn a profit. "Ghost Ship" doesn't sink as "13 Ghosts" did, but it doesn't manage the creepy, B-movie fun of their 1999 remake of "House on Haunted Hill". "Ghost Ship" manages some nifty scare moments, but not quite enough to tie the picture together.
"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 is eerie in a way that one wishes the rest of the movie could be. The film's production design is terrific, while the cinematography by 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, yet don't manage a whole lot of character development. 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 a little disinterested, especially Byrne, who feels out of place in a movie like this. Overall, "Ghost Ship" isn't great, but it's not entirely terrible, either. It's a fine rental for the Halloween season.
VIDEO: "Ghost Ship" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 (1080p/VC-1) and the results are a nice upgrade over the prior DVD edition. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as the picture boasts a crisp, rock-solid look, even in some of the darker/low-light sequences (of which there are quite a few in this film.) Smaller details are also often clearly visible at times.
While a bit of (likely intentional) grain is seen, it is handled well by this presentation. Flaws include a few minor specks on the print, as well as a couple of instances of light edge enhancement. Colors looked bold and rich, with strong saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film is presented by Warner Brothers in Dolby TrueHD 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, loud but not too overwhelming.
EXTRAS: The DVDs extras are carried over: 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" doesn't really succeed in terms of script and isn't particularly original, but it does offer a solid cast and strong visuals and atmosphere. The Blu-Ray edition boasts stronger audio/video quality than the prior DVD edition, but the same extras. A recommended rental for Halloween, or as an upgrade (in terms of presentation quality) for fans of the film who own the prior DVD.)
The Film C+