Monthly Archives: March 2011

Ghost Ship

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.

The Fog (2005)

This 2005 remake of John Carpenter’s 1980 film The Fog sees Carpenter in a writer role and Rupert Wainwright, whose filmography includes directing MC Hammer videos, taking over the directing.

The action takes place on an island off of the coast of Oregon, in a town that is celebrating the unveiling of a statue honouring the four founding fathers, whose descendents make up the main characters. Tom Welling of Smallville fame plays Nick Castle, who runs a small boat operation, taking people out on tourist trips. On one such trip the anchor catches something on the seabed, something that has lain there undisturbed since it was dropped from a burning clipper called the Elizabeth Dane over 100 years before. That evening his girlfriend Elizabeth Williams, played by Maggie Grace, returns from six months away from the island, and strange things start to happen out at sea.

A dense fog suddenly rolls in, smothering the town, and the deaths begin. When Elizabeth finds an old diary of one of the men who founded the town it becomes clear that retribution is being sought for the breaking of a contract and the mass murder of the travellers on the Elizabeth Dane in 1871, which the founders of the town were involved with and profited from.

Overall, this is a pretty terrible film. Very CGI-heavy, suspense is tossed out of the window to allow heavy banks of fog to thunder towards the town and the rotting dead to loom out of it. Often, when somebody’s peering out of a window or walking very, very slowly towards a door that a mysterious banging is taking place on, it just looks like a smoke machine’s been put on overdrive. Neither of the leads show much in the way of emotion. At one point they’re watching a man burning to death and the most Maggie Grace can manage is looking faintly perturbed before turning her head to the side. It’s the same when her mother is sucked out of a window by the fog, just a mild sense of ‘well that was unfortunate’.

Another annoying thing seems to be the complete lack of common sense. Nick’s boat is taken out by his friend one evening for some kind of party, the fog rolls in and everybody but the friend die. It turns out that a camcorder has recorded it all, and proves that the guy who managed to survive was innocent, yet Nick hands it to Elizabeth telling her to look after it instead of giving it to the police, and she wanders off to the boathouse to look at it, promptly falling into water and losing the camera. And nobody seems bothered by this. All it is is a way for her to find the diary, which has somehow managed to escape water damage even though it’s been hidden in the wall of a boathouse dock for the past century. Clearly 19th century paper makers could tell Sony a thing or two about waterproofing.

So she finds out the awful truth, more people die, and then comes one of the most random endings I’ve ever seen where it turns out she looks identical to, or actually is somehow, one of the women who died on the ship. She kisses her ghostly rotting husband, Nick gawps, and off they go, the end.

Pardon? She isn’t a blood relative of the woman who died as all of the ship’s passengers were killed, in fact she’s a blood relative of one of the men who killed her, so how did this soul transfer come about? And, all this fogginess starts occurring when she comes back to the island. So in 20-odd years has she never left it before? Do people not go on holiday? This mystery remains unsolved.

Critical acclaim

It manages a 3.4 on IMDB from around 16,500 reviews so it looks like a lot of other people think this is a pile of tripe as well. The BBC didn’t think much of it either, especially the ‘fog’, saying that ‘Wainwright fills the screen with dry ice until it looks like the Top Of The Pops studio circa 1977’, whilst all Peter Bradshaw had to say at the Guardian was ‘Why was it made at all?’