Impressions: Ghost Ship

So I, like many people, distinctly remembered the opening of this 2002 movie. The wire snap scene was one that people talked about for years and even with the questionable aging of the CGI is still a major punch of a horror movie opening. I cannot honestly say that I remember haven seen anything beyond the opening. So one night, while searching for a horror movie to watch, I realized they added this to Netflix and thought, why not.

As mentioned Ghost Ship came out in 2002 and has mostly gotten moderate reviews over the years. Some people hate it, some think it’s an underrated gem, but “average” seems to be the overall response. After having seen it again (or possibly for the first time, again I honestly don’t know) I have to say that I am torn.

First and foremost, the elephant in the room has to be addressed, the CGI. Like many movies in the late 90s/early 00s, this movie thought to move away from practical effects because everyone was excited about CGI. The problem is CGI was not that great at the time, and several times the movie would be better served by practical effects even by today’s standards let alone 2002. In other words, the effects look cheesy as hell. I am sorry to be blunt about it, but the overuse of CGI significantly weakens several key moments.

This is especially noticeable when you compare it to the relatively practical built ship, which is probably the best part of the entire film. The setting of the ghost ship and the atmosphere it brings I think is largely why some people are adamant defenders of this movie. I have a bit of a different reaction; I feel that the movie did not live up to the greatness of the setting.

It is well-acted, and the characters are… fine. They kind of fit into certain tropes a little too much for me, but it is reminiscent of the times. There is also an interesting blend of star power in this movie. Although I imagine that I am not the only one surprised that the little girl is the one that has had the most consistent career since the release of this film.

The story is actually rather clever, and I liked the idea of it, which is why it is oh so disappointing that the pacing is completely off and the story fights with itself a little. There is little in the way of explanation for what happened on the ship until we are rather suddenly put in a flashback scene. The entire story and the reason everyone on the ship was killed is played out in just a handful of minutes. The idea is that the main bad guy is not human but a sort of ferryman. He finds a way to get rescued by unsuspecting ships, get them to turn on each other and do a lot of his dirty work, then ferries the souls in the fallout. This is an excellent idea that is completely underutilized, and, if you check out for even a moment, you might miss that plot point.

It also presents two problems for the movie overall. First is that he was somehow able to get a few people to kill a ship of at least 1,000 people. In showing it sure they explain that they took out many in the beginning, but it’s still a little unbelievable. That I can let go of fairly easily, what is more difficult to let go of is how few ghosts there on this ghost ship.

I get the idea that less is more, but we are told there are so many people on the ship and that they have all been corrupted to help the ferryman take the souls of anyone that comes upon it. So the question becomes, why do we only see four to six ghosts? It is even more astounding when you consider that one is not even from the ship originally, one is an innocent (so an ally), and one inexplicably is not an innocent but somehow not corrupted to help the ferryman. Seriously, why is the deceased captain helpful?

So that is a lot of complaints for a movie I am torn about I guess. Still, I won’t call it bad like some people. In fact, I can see why people like it. It is at the end of the day, an entertaining movie. It is one of those movies where it is not so impossible to look beyond the flaws that you can’t have fun. It’s not scary, which is a significant flaw, but it’s not a bad flick. The setting is again fantastic, it has good atmosphere, it brings in some action/adventure which I loved in horror movies from that time, and while not perfectly executed, it’s a fresh concept. It also has some pretty awesome scenes for horror fans, notably again the opening, but there are others.

I could never go so far as to say I loved the movie, but I did really enjoy it, and I can see myself watching it again. It is a good hang out with people, maybe have a beer and just kind of chill horror movie. It is not dumb but fun (it’s too good for that) but still has a certain something about it.

I do find myself thinking that in an age of a million remakes I wish this one would make the list. Again, the underlying plot is an excellent idea if used better, the setting is killer, and with better effects, it could have more impact.

But for now I wish it was scarier, the story more fleshed out, and damn I wish it didn’t have so much CGI. I still liked the characters, enjoyed the ship, and appreciate what is good in it.

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