Ghost Ship (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Steve Beck|
|Produced by||Joel Silver |
|Written by||Mark Hanlon |
|Starring||Julianna Margulies |
|Music by||John Frizzell|
|Edited by||Roger Barton|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Country||United States |
|Box office||$68.3 million|
Ghost Ship is a 2002 supernatural horror film directed by Steve Beck, and starring an ensemble cast featuring Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington and Karl Urban. The film follows a marine salvage crew in the Bering Sea who discover a mysterious ocean liner that disappeared in 1962.
The film was shot in Queensland, Australia and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and released theatrically in North America on October 25, 2002. It received largely negative reviews from critics. It earned in excess of $68 million in box office receipts worldwide.
Despite its title, the film is unrelated to the 1952 film of the same name.
In 1962, aboard the ocean liner SS Antonia Graza, passengers dance to the song "Senza Fine" sung by Francesca, a lounge singer. A young girl, Katie, sits alone until the ship's captain offers to dance with her. A hand presses a lever that unravels a thin wire cord from a spool. The spool snaps and the wire whips across the dance floor, bisecting the passengers and crew. Katie is spared due to the fact that the captain had shielded himself over her seconds before the incident took place.
Forty years later, a salvage crew — Captain Sean Murphy, Maureen Epps, Greer, Dodge, Munder, and Santos — celebrate their recent success. Jack Ferriman, a weather service pilot, approaches them saying he spotted a vessel adrift in the Bering Sea. Because the ship is in international waters, it can be claimed by whoever brings it to port. The crew sets out on the Arctic Warrior, an ocean salvage tugboat. The ship is the Antonia Graza, which went missing decades ago. After boarding the abandoned liner, the salvagers discover nine wooden boxes, each containing twenty-eight 100-oz gold bars.
After a series of supernatural events, the group decides to abandon the salvage effort and retreat with the gold, but an invisible force sabotages the Arctic Warrior. The tugboat explodes, killing Santos.
With no other option, the group begins repairing the Graza. Greer encounters Francesca, who seduces him into betraying his fiancée, then leads him to fall down an elevator shaft, killing him. Murphy enters the captain's cabin and finds his ghost. The captain explains that they recovered the gold from a sinking cruise ship, the Lorelei, along with a sole survivor. Murphy is shown a picture of the survivor, whom he recognizes. He rushes to tell the others, but hallucinates and sees everyone as the ghost of the burned Santos, who provokes him into a murderous rage. The others think Murphy has gone mad and lock him in the drained fish tank; Epps later finds him drowned.
Epps meets Katie's ghost, who reveals what happened on the Graza. The sole survivor of the Lorelei convinced many of the Graza's crew to murder the passengers, as well as the remaining crew, for the gold. After murdering the passengers through mass poisoning, shooting, and other methods, the crew turned on each other. Francesca killed the officer who survived. The mastermind behind the massacre killed Francesca by releasing a hook which slashes into her neck and hooks her. He then branded her palm with a hook-shaped symbol using only his hands. The man is revealed as Jack Ferriman, who is the demonic spirit of a deceased sinner tasked with provoking people to sin, then killing them and bringing their souls to Hell. Epps deduces that Ferriman lured the salvage team to the Graza to repair it, and decides to sink it to thwart his plan. Munder is crushed to death under the ship's gears while scuba diving in the flooded engine room. Epps tells Dodge to keep Jack on the ship's bridge while she sets explosives. Ferriman taunts Dodge, mocking him as a coward for never acting on his feelings for Epps, then charges him. Dodge shoots Ferriman with a shotgun and believes Ferriman to be dead.
Epps is setting explosives when she is confronted by Dodge. He tells her he killed Ferriman and that they can salvage the gold to start a life together, but Epps asks why Dodge has not asked her where Munder is. Realizing his ruse failed, "Dodge" morphs into Ferriman, who killed Dodge. Ferriman plans to use the Graza as a trap to continue collecting souls. As long as the Graza is kept afloat, the souls of everyone who died aboard the ship will be dragged down when Ferriman fills his quota and returns to Hell. He offers to spare Epps's life in exchange for her not interfering, but she detonates the explosives. Ferriman is blown to pieces in the explosion and Katie helps Epps escape the sinking ship. Katie and the other souls trapped on the ship are freed.
Epps is found by a cruise ship and returned to land. As she is loaded into an ambulance, she sees the crates of gold being loaded onto the cruise ship by members of the crew, overseen by a resurrected Ferriman, who glares at her and carries on; she screams as the ambulance doors close.
- Gabriel Byrne as Sean Murphy
- Julianna Margulies as Maureen Epps
- Ron Eldard as Dodge
- Desmond Harrington as Jack Ferriman
- Isaiah Washington as Greer
- Alex Dimitriades as Santos
- Karl Urban as Munder
- Emily Browning as Katie Harwood
- Francesca Rettondini as Francesca
- Boris Brkic as Chief Steward
- Bob Ruggiero as Captain Antonio Graza
- Iain Gardiner as Purser
Ghost Ship first emerged in January 1996 as Chimera, a spec script by Mark Hanlon. This script was a relatively bloodless psychological thriller rather than a vivid supernatural horror film. Most notably, much of the film's gore is absent from the screenplay. The film would have focused on four members of a salvage crew who end up stranded aboard the ghost vessel they are scuttling (the titular Chimera). Over the course of one night, each member — due to panic, cabin fever, or supernatural forces — goes insane and plots to kill the other three.
In Chimera, Murphy is the "main killer" and the ship runs onto some rocks and begins to sink. Murphy and Epps survive until nearly the end but as the ship sinks, Murphy goes off to retrieve gold ingots. The weight of the gold and the time he loses in getting to it leads to Murphy's demise. As in the film, Katie helps Epps escape. Over time, the script underwent rewrites, and the psychological aspects of the script were all jettisoned in favor of making the film a slasher. It has been suggested that "The cast signed on based on this (original) draft ... and were sadly disappointed to find the script had been radically changed by Joel Silver and associates when they arrived to begin shooting."
The idea of filming on a real ship was continually brought up, and a few ships were scouted for the possibility of being used as the Antonia Graza. "The temptation was always to shoot on the real thing," Beck says. "We actually visited a few [ships] , but every time we thought, 'How are we ever going to get a dolly through this alley? Or down this hallway?' When you're shooting you often have to punch through a wall in order to get the shot you need, and on a steel ship that's impossible. We knew the real thing would be far too limiting."
Instead of using an actual ship, Australian visual effects company Photon VFX, who prior had worked on the 2002 film Scooby-Doo, was hired as the principal contractor for all visual effects. This allowed Warner Bros. to take full advantage of the wide spectrum of services offered including CGI, animation, miniatures, live-action, prosthetics, pyrotechnics and aerial, underwater and motion control cinematography.
The SS Andrea Doria served as the inspiration for the film's ship the Antonia Graza. Photon created a 35-foot 1/20th scale model of the ship, allowing the exterior shots to be a combination of CGI, miniature, and live-action footage. For certain exterior shots a miniature just wouldn't work, so instead a full-scale forecastle and bow were constructed. "It was a full-scale replica, so it wouldn't have fit into a studio," Walker explains. "It also needed to have sky backgrounds surrounding it, so we built it on a hill to achieve the desired effect."
The majority of the film was shot on sets built on a sound stage at Village Roadshow Studios. The only ship used in Ghost Ship was the tugboat Arctic Warrior used by the main protagonists. While filming the exterior shots on the tugboat, a feeding frenzy occurred in the water bringing 800-1000 sharks within 50 yards of the production and its stars.
In February 2002, the 35-foot-long model of the Antonia Graza, made by Photon VFX, was taken out to Moreton Bay to film establishing shots of the ship adrift. In early February, construction of the bow and foredeck of the full-scale replica of the Antonia Graza was getting underway at Newstead, Queensland. Construction, which lasted roughly six weeks, drew many curious residents and tourists that were hoping to get a look at the nearly 100-foot-tall (30m) massive hull that dominated the surrounding area.
Dale Duguid, the creative director of Photon VFX, wanted to push the boundaries. There was a lot of pride for Ghost Ship since it was the largest visual effect contract completely done in Australia to date. Photon VFX filmed a real ocean-liner at sea off the coast of New South Wales, digitally removed the ship, but kept all of its movements, leaving nothing but ocean and sky. Then the tracking data was taken and in-put into a robotic filming system, which then filmed the 35-foot-long (10 m) miniature ship. The digital effects team then added 300 digital extras, in addition to digital water and smoke to make the scene appear as realistic as possible.
The dramatic scene, which features the derelict ballroom reverting to its former grand-self, posed a problem for the effects crew. "That was the most difficult shot I've ever worked on," says Duguid. Filming took place on two different sets, the first being the decrepit ballroom which had been adrift for forty years. The second set was the luxurious ballroom, used in the opening scene with happy party guests having a grand time. "We were filming on a derelict set and a new set, and we shot 80 layers of that scene on a circular motion control track, each time with different things going on. Some we shot forwards, some backwards, some fast, some slow."
Music and soundtrack
|Ghost Ship Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by|
|Released||November 5, 2002|
The soundtrack album for Ghost Ship was composed by John Frizzell. The score is described by Filmtracks.com as "tap [dancing] around some old genre cliches while diving head first into others, producing a score with drama, fright, and a slight hint of elegance at times as well." The album was released on the Varèse Sarabande label on 5 November 2002.
Warner Bros. in association with Hollywood.com sponsored a sweepstakes to promote the film beginning October 18, 2002, with the final drawing on November 1. Applicants could enter for the chance to win the grand prize dubbed the "Ghost Ship Prize Package" of promotional merchandise consisting of one Ghost Ship baseball hat, one spinning skull mug, one Ghost Ship shower CD player, and the Ghost Ship soundtrack. The runners up would receive just the baseball hat and mug.
With a reported budget of $20 million, the film opened at no. 3 at the box office with $11,503,423 in ticket sales as Jackass: The Movie dominated the cinema releases. The film grossed $30,113,491 in North America and had an international gross of $38,236,393, earning a total of $68,349,884.
Critical response 
According to internet review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Ghost Ship has a 16% approval rating based on 127 reviews. The consensus states that "With a plot as creaky as the boat, Ghost Ship fails to deliver the scares". Similarly, Metacritic gives the film a score of 28/100 based on 25 reviews and rates the film as "generally unfavorable". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
The film received varied critical reception in the United States: The New York Times's Stephen Holden criticized its preoccupation with special effects, and while praising its establishment of mood, ultimately deemed it "an incoherent supernatural thriller that would like to think of itself as a Halloween-ready horror fusion of The Perfect Storm and Titanic. Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle praised the performance of Isaiah Washington, but deemed the film "a stupid, derivative horror film that substitutes extreme gore for suspense. Granted, there are only so many ways to kill people in these pictures, but lingering on a woman on a meat hook doesn't make a movie scary. It makes it gross."
Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times was critical of the script's lack of character development, writing: "With its minor shivers and modest Grand Guignol showmanship, Ghost Ship is the sort of flimflam that would have filled eight paneled pages in the great horror comic book Tales From the Crypt or consumed about 30 minutes on the latter-day HBO spinoff." Roger Ebert said the film is "better than you expect but not as good as you hope," while Joel Siegel of Good Morning America awarded the film a B- rating, writing: "After a very brutal and bloody beginning, Ghost Ship plays like an old-fashioned ghost story, the kind that kept you awake when you were a kid." In a review published by IGN, the reviewer awarded the film one-and-a-half out of five stars, stating: "as a horror fan, I applaud what Silver and Zemeckis are trying to do with Dark Castle, Ghost Ship just isn't a cruise worth taking."
Upon the film's release in the United Kingdom in January 2003, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw praised its set design, but added "it's the same old tired stuff we've seen a hundred times before in various permutations." Jamie Russell of the BBC awarded the film two out of five stars, but praised its opening sequence.
While critical response to Ghost Ship was varied upon its theatrical release, many contemporary critics and film fans alike praised its elaborate opening murder sequence. Website Bloody Disgusting listed Ghost Ship's opening massacre as #13 in their list of "The Top 13 Kills in Horror Movie History," while ComingSoon named the scene one of the greatest opening sequences in horror film history.
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- First draft screenplay of "Ghost Ship" (formerly "Chimera" ).
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- Meyer, Carla (October 25, 2002). "FILM CLIPS / Also opening today". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
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- Linder, Brian (October 25, 2002). "This Weekend at the Movies: Ghost of a Chance". IGN. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
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- Don Sumner (August 14, 2012). "Ghost Ship (2002) Review". Best-Horror-Movies.com. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
… plus it has one of the greatest opening scenes in horror.
- "Sunday Bloody Sunday: Opening Scene From 'Ghost Ship' (2002)". DirtyHorror.com. September 15, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
… I was in definite "Holy Shit!" mode after seeing the opening scene. It was jaw-dropping indeed, but then after it, …
- "The Top 13 Kills in Horror Movie History!". Bloody Disgusting. November 14, 2004.
- Alexander, Chris (January 14, 2016). "The Greatest Opening Scenes in Horror History: Ghost Ship". ComingSoon. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
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