So here we are, yet another random horror movie consigned to film history. This one stood out a bit on the shelf because of Gabriel Byrne’s participation and Karl Urban also forms part of the ship-salvage crew (he went on to don horse and helmet in two of the Lord of the Rings films), but despite some recognisable faces and a right shocker of an opener, this film doesn’t ever manage to lift itself out of the mundane.
The film begins in the sixites with a cruise ship deck full of people waltzing. You’re thinking ‘Great, something terrible’s going to happen’, getting yourself ready for some gore, but you’ll never guess what actually does happen. It’s pretty disgusting, and also a bit far-fetched, but this is a ghost story so we’ll go with it.
Back in the present day a rough-and-ready tug-boat driving salvage crew, complete with the sole woman who proves she’s just as dare-devil and tough as the boys, has a grainy photo of a large unidentifiable vessel waved in front of them, which could prove to be the haul of a lifetime. Byrne whips out the good old ‘Anything you want to say to me you can say to my crew’ line to the guy who pitches this opportunity to them, but luckily ‘Jack’ has enough photos to pass around, which makes you beg the question, why did he bother doing that if he just wanted to speak to the captain?
Anyway, Jack hitches a lift after some surprisingly brief questioning as to who the hell he is, and off they motor to find a bloody great ocean liner that vanished in the sixites, but of course they don’t know it’s the legendary Antonia Graza until they collide into the side of the thing and Byrne, wise old sage that he is, musters up all of the awe and foreboding he can manage before setting forth the tale apparently well-know amongst salvage crews of a cruise ship that disappeared in 1962 and was never heard of again.
Off they go to have a poke about, Byrne telling everybody to be careful as it’s a rotting old ship, thanks for that, would never of occurred, and the strageness begins. Bullet cases are found in the bottom of a swimming pool and a mysterious little girl keeps appearing, radios hiss and a lit cigarette burns in an ashtray. It’s all very creepy. Eventually they find a whole hoard of gold bars in crates with the marks removed so it’s finders keepers, but then people start dying and their salvage boat is blown up. So they’re stuck on the ship and it’s also a race against time to fix a hole in the hull before the current carries it onto rocks in the middle of nowhere.
Eventually, after a range of gruesome endings and the help of a flashback from the girl ghost it transpires that Jack isn’t exactly what he said he was, and things start to fall apart a bit. From what I can gather he was a sinner in hell but if he collects enough souls on the ship he can then be saved. Saved to live on earth or saved to go to heaven? I’m not sure, as I don’t think God would be best pleased that Jack arranged the deaths of hundreds of people so he could weedle his way out of the firey pit, so it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And you never find out who was doing all of the killing on the cruise ship, or where the gold came from, or what it’s doing on the ship in the first place. In the end the sole woman proves she’s the toughest of the tough and manages to blow the thing to bits and get herself out and somehow rescued.
And then, Jack comes back! Carrying his gold bars! Nice to see you get second chances in hell.