Friday, October 21, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Ghost Ship (2002)

Now, here's an interesting movie to discuss. Is this a good movie, a bad one, or only a simple failure as a film? Some, no, most of the reviews for this film peg it as a pretty bad film. Hell, the scores of this film give it so low a score that it's practically in the same league of film as Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, which I think must be some kind of awful insult. My point is that this film is almost universally panned by critics, and I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm here to tell you what I think.

Ghost Ship is a ghost film, first and foremost, something that is fairly rare as a film genre today. I'm not ready to speak about the film's quality yet as both a movie and as a ghost film, but I can say that it does, at the very least, try very hard to be a ghost film. But in another way this film is much more than a ghost film. It's a film that has a very interesting story, reminiscent of 1408 and The Shining at the very least. It has a very psychological horror aspect to it without actually having any psychological horror. It's a ghost movie that uses the psychology of the characters within it to actually have the audience as well as the characters see things that either are not there, or are just in their respective minds. I feel that comparing this film to The Shining and 1408 is apt. The films all share very similar themes and ideas, except that I will admit that not only are both of those other films better than this one, but also that this film is much more of a downer movie compared to either of the others.

See, a ghost film, in this case, is not necessarily a horror film, even if it does try to be. This film is not scary at all. I do mean that. I would find it difficult to find one scene that I can definitively say is supposed to be scary. It simply was not a scary film, and yet it is listed as a horror film. I think that's wrong. This is a ghost film, which is not necessarily horror film. I'll show you what I mean.

Ghost Ship has some very strange ideas and scenes, and some very psychological moments, but that does not mean that it ever really finds its way to scary. I don't know if this movie is trying to be scary either, which is kind of the problem I'm having in reviewing it. If it was trying to be scary, it failed completely. If it was trying to be a ghost story, it succeeded even though it isn't scary. In my mind a ghost story doesn't have to be scary to be good, and that's kind of what I'm feeling at this point. I feel that this was not a bad film in any sense of the word. It certainly was not as bad as The Reaping, which I still hate even after all this time. I actually will even go and say that I liked this film. It wasn't the best film I've ever seen, but I thought it had a lot of great ideas and worked them all out really well. In my mind the film itself isn't the highpoint of this film, but rather the ideas and implications raised by the film. Again it's very reminiscent of 1408 in that way, except that 1408 was very good within the film as well.

Like 1408 though, I feel that this film has a heavy disconnect between the genre it is and the genre it's trying to be. This film is a ghost story, but has far too many elements of straight horror and comedy. Those things don't work in this film. If the filmmakers had decided to try and make a good film they would have focused more on the psychological implications and made this a psychological horror ghost film, but that wasn't the case. I feel that this film may be one of the more controversial reviews I might do, simply because I strongly disagree with the consensus, in much the same way I disagreed with the consensus about Blair Witch 2.

Does it work as a movie? I don't know. I found it enjoyable to watch. I liked it. To me it was memorable. I wouldn't have thought it would have been memorable, and at first I really did think this film wasn't fantastic, even if it was enjoyable to watch. But in seeing the ending and thinking about it, the movie really does appeal to me at a visceral level. I like the ideas of the movie probably much more than the movie itself, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In watching this movie, you must be able to keep an opened mind and try and see what's going on and think about it rather than just dismissing the whole thing as completely stupid. The movie holds up much better that way. Is this ever going to be one of my favorite movies? No, but I do think it is one that should be watched for the sheer ideas of the story.

The story is pretty good, involving a salvage crew being told by a pilot that a big damn luxury ship is sitting out in the Bering Strait just ready to be salvaged. The crew comes aboard the ship and starts experiencing very strange things, eventually coming to a end with a confrontation with something that is beyond the living. I love how it was done. I love how the acting was surprisingly good even from the smaller parts. I do tend to like Karl Urban and Gabriel Byrne, and they were both very good in this film, although it could never be considered their best roles. Desmond Harrington, playing Jack Ferriman (Now, that's a name to run away from if I've ever heard one.), really brings out his acting pants. At first I thought this guy was easily the worst actor I have ever seen, but as the movie progressed I could see exactly what he was going for and it was unsettling. I was unsettled, not scared, but very nervous about his role in everything. Hell, he's one of the reasons I liked this film as much as I did. His performance was really very well done, and I'm glad I had the chance to watch it.

As for the cinematography, and I do feel I have to mention it, even quickly, it was not amazing, but also not terrible. I thought that some of the shots and CGI were incredibly well done and other parts of it, such as the shots of the characters, were not as well done. I like the scenery of this film as well. I especially like it for the kind of film I do believe this film was trying to be. Some of the ruined environments look really good, and realistic even, which is always a plus in a movie like this. Also as a point, why do movies like this have this idea of showing a topless woman against the backdrop of a ruined place? I mention that because it was something I was hanging my head about as I was watching the film. it always seems that in some stanky, nasty, dank, and dark environment some chick needs to be getting her top off. I know it show a contrast between ruin and beauty... or whatever... but I think it's a little sick. It doesn't matter that the chick who was doing it was a ghost... well, I guess it kind of does actually... but my point is that some filmmaker was probably getting off on it and that kind of makes me uncomfortable for so many reasons.

Anyway, I did like this film. I felt that although it was not as good as 1408 or The Shining, Ghost Ship can draw some pretty  heavy and serious comparisons to those films. If you enjoyed either of those films or their original stories, go and check out Ghost Ship. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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