Sitting proudly in bargain bins everywhere Ghost Ship is a B-movie that wears its shlock horror origins proudly on its sleeve. And, as such, I was not expecting too much as the movie has been on DVD for a long time now (mostly in the aforementioned bins). If people had been raving about it I would probably have seen it before now, but up until a few days ago I haven’t and, indeed, didn’t really want to. However, on reflection I was missing a treat as this movie is truly terrible, in a good way.
Kicking things off, we first see the ‘ship’ in its prime. An Italian luxury liner called the Antonia Graza, full, alive, and in looking majestic, it’s the playground for the gentry in the 60s, a pleasure cruiser for the rich, famous and beautiful people of the time.
Borrowing a pile of period knock off costumes, we get a chance to mingle in high definition with flowing dandies and the crème de la crème of the era, all necking back drinks and having a merry old time. However, while the toffs are having a good time of it, all about the ship all is not well as the structure of their pleasure cruiser is not as solid and well designed as it should be.
Borrowing from Titanic a disaster strikes, but instead of hitting an iceberg, the ship instead has a problem with it is actual construction as its on-board cabling has been tightened to such a point that these whip-like structures come loose on deck with the result of them sweeping across the boat, literally cutting a swathe through the crew and passengers. It slashes in half these innocent bystanders via these razor-like pieces of cable in what is an impressive piece of CG that has bloody bodies literally coming apart at the seams.
With this disaster the ship then mysteriously disappears for the best part of 40 years.
Cut to the present day, and we find Captain Murphy (Gabriel Byrne phoning his role in) steering his crew of ghostly cannon fodder through calm waters looking for salvage. With the thoughts of treasure and riches, Murphy suggests that the team take up a rumour that the Antonia Graza has been spotted and that the ‘cursed’ ship could be rife with booty.
Of course, this proves to be the exact opposite, as the ship is, indeed, full, but instead of shiny bits and wealth, it holds the trapped souls of the crew and passengers floating around, ready to get rid of unwanted guests from their floating watery grave.
Filmed in blues and creepy sea-sick green, the film’s atmosphere and spooky nature is really played upon and is pretty fast paced. Clocking in at under a hour and a half, the film is quickly cut, unrelenting and has the action coming thick and fast.
With some impressive ‘kills’ and some good shocks and scares, the only thing letting the movie down is the reliance on CG that is, at times, obvious. While good old-school prosthetic visual effects are used, at times the reliance on pixels is a little disappointing. Still, the initial scene, where those aboard the Antonia Graza meet their grisly ends, is one of the best shocks and ‘kills’ I have seen in a long time.
Putting such a movie on Blu-ray is interesting as even though the movie does, indeed, look really nice, I wonder what the logic of putting this type of film into this new format really is. If, as I have mentioned throughout this review, you can pick up this oddity for a few quid, the chances of parting with the best part of twenty pounds to re-watch it is something that not many people are going to do. I just don’t think there would be a large appetite for this film. It’s just like putting other ‘non-classics’ such as Street Fighter, Ghosts of Mars or Punisher on Blu-ray (all of which I have reviewed).
The effort and work in general that is put into developing and distributing this HD version is questionable. As, I suspect, this is just up-scaling of the existing print. The entire notion probably isn’t worth the effort, nor by the limited amount of extras (commentary, thin vignette making of, and CG and special doc, the usual bits, really). However, the queasy aquatic colour scheme does work well in high definition and adds a lot to the overall atmosphere of the movie.
You don’t hear fans of the new format raving about the high quality and superb sound for films like this. It is, I would think, maybe an effort in trying to recoup losses or to invigorate a back catalogue of films that were a dud first time, to squeeze that very last bit of revenue out of them.
A supernatural aquatic oddity, Ghost Ship is like a lot of its counterparts of its time (Haunting. 13 Ghosts and House On Haunted Hill, for example), a cheap, but guilty pleasure horror flick with some good simple scares delivered at a fast pace. But it’s nowhere in the league of horror classics to appease hardcore horror lovers or gory enough for those who like that type of thing.
It’s not a bad film. Just not really a good one, but the effects are passable and it is what it says on the tin, a B-movie ghost story set on a ship with a few creepy bits and a scare or two.
Ghost Ship is out on Blu-ray now.