Ghost Ship – 2002

Let me begin by stating that I’m not a big fan of haunted [insert structure here] movies. Houses, ships, oil rigs, cemeteries, kitchen appliances… no. I find this type of movie a lot less enjoyable than, say, ‘Random monster runs amuck and eats Pittsburgh’ for example

This movie changed my mind on that in a very big way. Perhaps it’s because it’s not ‘just’ a haunted house/ship movie. There’s a lot more going on here. One of the reasons that I enjoy this movie is that it’s not simply one of these ‘we wandered into something and are too stupid to get out’ type of survival horror movies. Instead, the protagonists have a very believable reason for being trapped and a very good explanation as to the supernatural forces in question.

We liked this movie. A lot. Which is not going to keep us from poking at it for your amusement. We’d also like to apologize for the floating pronouns, as there are two of us watching this movie. Think of us as Statler and Waldorf, if that helps – or even if it doesn’t.

Hey, I’ve always wanted to be a Muppet.

The movie begins with a very non-horror movie sort of opening credits. Maybe it’s the pink font, in loopy handwritten letters… maybe it’s the bubbly background, maybe it’s the romantically lit deck of the cruise ship, with the dancers and the beautiful Italian songstress crooning into her microphone as the formally dressed passengers dance, champagne being offered by uniformed stewards.

Of course, the movie is called ‘Ghost Ship’ so we know there’s something terrible in the offing, particularly as everyone is dressed in styles that were old before either of us were born.

Here we have our first shot of one of our protagonists, who some of you might remember from other movies – most recently ‘Sucker Punch’. She’s wearing a lot more clothing here. Of course, she’s also about ten years younger. She looks just as bored as a girl her age stuck at a formal event full of adults would be, despite the friendly company of one of the officers. She has a toy with her and is playing with it as she watches the dancers – a long snake of little cubes with numbers and letters on it – and the officer cheekily twists them to say ‘I am so bored’. Awwww.

Plot device – check.

A few minutes later, her boredom is broken by an offer from the elderly captain for a dance. They dance together and her mood has brightened considerably. She appears to be the only child on board, and the crew seem determined to see to it she has at least some fun. The scene is sweet, full of good humor and gay dancers.

You can smell the impending doom, can’t you?

A mysterious hand reaches out to pull an equally mysterious lever as the lovely, crooning voice of the singer continues. We are treated to an ominous scene of a wire unspooling as everything shifts into gentle slow motion. As the singer croons, the wire is pulled taut and rips across the crowded dance floor, to end up dripping blood in an artistic fashion on the far side.

Naturally, the music stops. Everyone is perfectly still. Then things start… falling. A champagne glass, snapped in two. The lower halves of suit jackets and lovely dresses crumple, starting to soak at the seams with red. Flowers, chopped in half, tumble down, and the bodies start to follow them in waterfalls of blood.

The creepiest part of this is the silence. No one screams. The formerly carefree men and women are now on the floor in varying shades of bloodless shock, and we even see one confused woman trying to fit her severed torso back together.

This movie does not skimp on the gore.

Our child protagonist is, naturally, the shortest person on the floor. The wire has cut through the dancers at varying heights and seems to have missed her entirely. She stands, clasped in the arms of the captain, in the center of the dance floor, looking around at the carnage with shock and not yet able to take in the events of the past few seconds. Horrified, she turns to look up at the good captain, who had shielded her in his arms –

– just in time to see the top of his head slide off.

Like anyone with a vestige of sense and humanity, she screams.

We cut to black.

We’re still on the water, but it is now a bright and sunny day. Gone is the extravagant ocean liner and we’re looking at a completely different breed of vessel. There is a rugged tugboat by the name Arctic Warrior, hauling a dangerously teetering barge behind it like a bulldog leading a hippo. The tugboat is manned by a set of modern sailors doing a lot of purposeful and important yelling into their walkie-talkies. It appears that the barge is sinking, or taking on water, or… well, they talk very fast and it’s all important yelling.

Sinking is bad.

We’d like to pause here and note that, for a horror flick of the sort we usually watch, the acting here is so far above the norm that it is in danger of falling off the precipice as it attempts to catch sight of what’s going on down at ‘Puppet Master IV’ levels.

We’re going to introduce our intrepid crew at this point, and we’re even going to use their names… because really, they are actual characters with personality and development, not one-dimensional stereotypes.

The tug’s captain is named Murphy. His pilot is Greer. The engineer is named Santos. He has a salvage crew of three – Epps, Dodge and Munder. All are nicely competent, for a horror movie change of pace.

At the moment, Epps, Dodge and Munder are all engaging in both high-wire and submerged daredevil antics within the sinking barge in order to save their share of the salvage profits – much to the annoyance of their captain, who is still shouting into his walkie talkie about not wanting to lose the lives of his crew or his tugboat in exchange for some damn money. As they all just dove into the water-filled interior of their salvage, helter-skelter, they’re hardly equipped to hear any of this, much less argue back.

It’s the sort of logic you hear a lot at court martials, really. “I didn’t hear that order, sir!”

“And why not?”

“Because I was under water with a welding torch, sir.”

“Oh, well there you go.”

The point of this introduction is to show you that they do save the boat. Very competently, too. You’ll hear us touching on this a lot – competence. Forgive us… we just see it so rarely, it’s like being treated to steak after having to subsist on ramen. Ramen without any little flavor packets.

The barge is saved, and the soundtrack kicks in with triumphant rock guitar as our intrepid crew celebrate at a bar somewhere in Anchorage, divvying up their hard-earned cash and toasting with their beer bottles, “To the sea!” Considering the stunts they pulled to get their payday, their egos are running a little high, and there’s some talk of ‘best salvage crew around’ in the air. This earns them the attention of a man by the bar. He approaches their table, shakes Murphy’s hand, and introduces himself as Jack Ferriman.

His offer to buy Murphy a drink automatically brings a reaction out of the entire table. Murphy, apparently, doesn’t drink. Moment of significance.

Da Dah DUM!

We also learn that Murphy regards his crew as more of a cooperative or even a family. That having been firmly established, Jack has brought us the plot!

In brief, Jack is a weather patrol pilot, and noticed a ship adrift in the Bering Strait. He has some very grainy photos.

“This is me at the beach. This is me coming around the edge of the house. This is the Spanish Inquisition…. Oh yes, and this is a REALLY BIG BOAT!”

“Congratulations,” enthuses Epps. “You found a boat. In the middle of the ocean, of all places.”

Jack tells them that he’s seen the ship several times and that it’s drifting in international waters, so the Coast Guard can’t touch it. Or won’t. Or doesn’t have to. Whatever. The point is that ‘international waters’ translates to ‘salvage gold’.

This means that they’re a little bit interested. Just a little. And Jack hasn’t told another living soul about it. They send Jack away, discuss the possibilities of a mega payday, and have a little roundtable of sorts. You know, like a team.

Oh, and Greer is reluctant, because they’ve been at sea for six months and he hasn’t seen his sweetie – who he’s marrying in a month. Also, you know, they’re all just two days from retirement. Well, no. Not really. They’re all hale and hearty, salty sailors, all men of their word and skills… except for Epps, who is, in fact, a woman. But you get the idea.

Santos says that that the tugboat needs some engine work, and there is a bit of reluctance of going back into the sea without a plan, but Murphy reminds them all that the only plan is “there is no plan.” He gives the crew a chance for an out… but the subject of a payday comes up again, and an even split (but no overtime!).

Yeah, they’re in. Jack agrees to the even split, but insists that he must come along for insurance purposes. Funny, he doesn’t look like he works for State Farm.

Our intrepid crew is off, sailing into the artfully framed sunset! Well, they’re sailing to the left of it. Ninety degrees to the left. You have to sail one long stretch of way south, and then west, and then north in order to get to the Bering Strait, so it’s legitimately quite a bit out of their way.

So now we see our intrepid crew in their natural environment. Santos is piloting for the moment, blaring out deafening screamo-rock to take the edge off the storm outside. Epps is in the galley, shaving Greer’s head, Munder is watching a Bruce Lee movie from his bunk, and Dodge is reading ‘A Conspiracy of Evil’ as Murphy considers a map. Jack is getting seasick… the noob. There’s a cozy amount of banter being thrown around, like Epps refusing to shave anything but Greer’s head, Munder having a crude perspective on Greer’s former Navy career, and everyone poking fun at Jack’s nausea. Jack brings up the fact of Epps’ possession of ovaries making her an odd find in this line of work, but she brushes it off. As the saying goes, she’s not that nice of a girl to be found in a place like this, anyway.

The fact that she is a woman is never brought up again. It’s a non-issue, and has no bearing on her role within the team, her treatment by the otherwise all-male crew, or her effectiveness. Points, movie. Points.

Meanwhile, despite his enthusiastic head-banging and hand gestures Santos is keeping an eye on the radar. Something shows up. Or does it?

Da Dah DUM!

Responsibly, he notifies his captain, and Murphy makes him kill the tunes. After a bit of appearing/disappearing stuff on the radar, they find themselves on a direct collision course with mystery ship. Literally. It looms out of the darkness like… like a big, looming thing.

BOOM!

Despite last minute, evasive maneuvers the two vessels meet with an impressive ker-thud! Everyone is shaken up very firmly and Dodge just misses being a sailor pancake. Good thing tugboats are meant to take a certain amount of abuse. It is now firmly established that the ship in question is an ocean liner. They manage to get a light on the name and Murphy gets all pale and squeaky. “It’s the Antonia Graza.”

Da Dah DUM!

They try to make contact, but there is no answer, leaving Murphy to fill in the Important History of the name. Only a salvage captain could call an elderly derelict ‘beautiful’, and Murphy looks to be about two sentences away from breaking into adoring poetry. Italian floating art palace, yadda yadda… reported missing on May 21st, 1962, off the coast of Labrador (he means Eastern Canada, and also the other side of the continent).

Not exactly ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’ – but close enough.

And of course, there was the mysterious circumstance of no distress signal, no context, just ‘poof, gone’. As much as a giant freaking ship can go ‘poof’. Normally it’s called ‘sinking’ but, you know, whatever. That makes more of a ‘blorp’ sound.

Most importantly, Murphy asserts, “Under the law of the sea, she’s ours. Let’s not keep a lady waiting.”

Hey, if rust and and mildew turns you on, dude.

They get to work. Jack bitches that he’s not allowed to accompany the crew going up by crane, and Greer tells him it’s for safety, and to sit down and stay out of the way.

To call up an image of Murphy, Epps, Dodge, and Munder carefully making their way into the ship, armed with rain coats and flashlights… it’s kinda like ‘Alien’. Actually, it’s a lot like ‘Alien’, very likely deliberately so, and actually a very good way of building the right kind of horror atmosphere. The structure’s intact, the lifeboats are gone, and there’s no sign of life or anything resembling human habitation. There’s so much grime and rust on every surface that it would be easy to mistake it for an alien ship, and it’s huge.

The team strides in like it’s their job… which it is.

On board the tug, Jack continues to pester Greer by asking about a photo of Epps and Murphy together. No, they’re not dating. They’ve got a dependent relationship more like father and daughter.

Aboard the Antonia Graza, there are discussions on safety and procedure as our intrepid team sallies forth. Murphy warns everyone to watch their feet, as “time can turn deck plates into quicksand.” Again, competent. It’s like a breath of fresh air, really. Well, rusty, fishy, salty air, really. You get the idea.

The radio communication between the Graza and the tug begins to break up as the crew aboard the ocean liner set about making their way toward the bridge. Highlights include an impromptu warbling of the theme from the Love Boat and Epps’ impersonation of an airline hostess. Murphy makes more than one comment about keeping quiet and showing respect to the boat.

There’s a single jump scare with a stubbornly-functioning grandfather clock chiming the hour, to which there is much teasing and laughter… and the crew fails to notice a discarded toy on a nearby table. It’s so covered in accumulated grime that it should be fused together, but it somehow manages to twist and turn on its own – from ‘I am so bored’ to ‘Welcom abored’.

Hey, it’s a ghost ship, not a copy editor. Cut it some slack.

We learn from Murphy that the ship carried a compliment of 1100, crew and passengers. That’s a lot of people to go missing, Mr. Exposition. Color us duly impressed.

En route to the bridge, Munder takes point and the deck suddenly gives way under his feet. Nice Chekhov’s Gun there, movie. Epps dives forward to catch him, and Dodge and Murphy grab her feet. It’s all very heroic, like a team-building drill from hell. In the struggle to pull the understandably-freaking Munder up, Epps gets a glimpse of the room far below. Well below Munder’s dangling feet lies a ruined ballroom with a formerly lavish staircase. Standing calmly on that staircase is a little girl already familiar to the audience, incongruously clean when compared to the rest of the ship. She looks up to meet Epps’ eyes with a knowing look.

In the next moment, she’s gone.

They drag Munder up, and everyone proceeds a little more carefully to the bridge. The bridge has been open to the weather for some time, from the look of it, and is a fairly impressive ruin. The helm’s not responding, the fuel tanks are empty, the compass is dead… all in all, a somewhat spectacular mess.

Murphy and Epps look for the ship’s log while Munder and Dodge discover… a watch. A digital watch. You know, because digital watches were so popular in 1962. The obvious conclusions are drawn, but there’s no one on board now, so that makes the Graza still theirs.

They return to the tug with the Graza’s logs, and hold another roundtable. Jack asks if there are any clues as to what happened to the Graza, and Murphy responds by asking if he’s ever heard of the Marie Celeste. This is much in the same vein of asking someone if they’ve ever heard of the Titanic, especially if you’re talking to anyone even vaguely versed in nautical history, but hey, let’s review!

Mary Celeste is the original ghost ship tale, period. She was a brigantine merchant ship that set sail from New York in November of 1872, only to later be found on the other side of the Atlantic at full sail with no captain and no crew. The cargo and the crew’s valuables were still there, the food and water were still there, though it was missing all paperwork save for the logbook. There was no distress signal, no signs of violence, but the compass and clock were destroyed or nonfuctional, plus some superficial damage. The ship was still completely seaworthy (notoriously so, in the case of the final owner who tried like the dickens to get rid of it for reasons of insurance fraud), and no trace of the crew was ever found. To this day, there’s been everything from a book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (popularizing the Marie Celeste spelling) to an expedition headed by Clive Cussler to recover its (eventually) scuttled wreck to speculate on just what happened. Between theories of piracy, UFOs, seaquakes, and straight-up mutiny, there has never been an answer.

The movie fudges a few details – the Mary Celeste was only out for just under a month, not fifty nine days. There was no prepared food at empty tables, and it was found by a fellow sailor and friend of the captain who was sailing the same route, not fishermen. Also, it was carrying alcohol to Genoa, Italy, not cotton to London. It hadn’t reached the Mediterranean, it was found more than six hundred miles from Portugal. Honestly, given the notoriety of the tale, it could be expected that some retellings are creepier than others, but this is a very well-documented historical mystery, and it’s creepy enough without unnecessary embellishment.

Also, Murphy, it is redundant to say ‘12 knots an hour’. You’re a captain. It’s ‘12 knots’, period. At least you call it ‘helm’, and not ‘wheel’.

Dodge calls bullshit, but dude, come on. The Mary Celeste is a piece of actual history.

That said, the plan remains the same. They will tie up the Graza and tow her in. Santos immediately protests – the little love-tap they gave the Graza upon discovering her in the dark did some damage to their engines, and fixing those comes first. Greer suggests setting the Graza’s anchor and returning with more tugs, but Dodge is concerned that a Russian trawler might find it before then, and besides, the Graza’s anchors are gone. In a slight deference to physics, they guess that it’ll take two weeks to tow their find all the way back to Anchorage, and worth every drop of effort.

Later, we find Epps on the deck of the tug, having a helpful flashback to her glimpse of the girl in the abandoned ballroom. Jack comes by to offer her a jacket and a cigarette, and comments on her sudden solitude. Pressed, she tells him what she thinks she saw, and it’s clear she’s rattled and not wanting to admit she’s seeing things. Jack is sympathetic, equating it to things he would see while flying long, lonely weather patrols, but fortunately, this scene does not leave a flavor of ‘possible love interest subplot’ in our mouths. It’s simply a moment to contrast Jack’s character to Dodge’s open derision of Murphy’s ghost ship story. Jack isn’t one of the crew, but he seems to be fitting in well.

This is called character development, and it is possible in a horror movie, despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary.

One pretty sunrise later, Jack gets a jump-scare as Epps, Dodge, and Munder unexpectedly surface, SCUBA and all, from an underwater exploration of the Antonia Graza‘s hull. They’ve found a significant hole, and she’s doing what ships with holes do best – sinking. No, it wasn’t an iceberg. The ship is caught in a circular current just north of Kiska Island (fancy that, a real island on a real map), and on the last loop around, it likely grazed a smaller chain of islands that tore open the hull. They have three days to patch the hull before they arrive at the islands again.

Cue some more technical-sounding talk and pointing at blueprints. Difficult job, patch the breach from the inside, rudder’s jammed, jury rigging, 38 degree current drift… it’s kinda like the beginning again, with everyone sounding very purposeful and important. Luckily, Jack is as clueless as the audience, and gets it translated down to ‘it’s a lot of work for three days’.

But these guys wouldn’t be called the best salvage crew in the business if they don’t give it the old college try, right? Also, we would have a very short movie. It’s been enjoyable so far, but come on, we’re barely half an hour in.

Santos still protests, saying that he can’t fix the damaged engine with their current supplies. Murphy orders him to work with what he has and overhaul the starboard engine to compensate. So sayeth the bossman.

Greer, being the sensible, marriageable man that he is, opts to call the find in to the authorities, citing maritime law. Murphy disagrees, for the moment. He doesn’t want a crowd just yet.

Pulling rank twice in less than a minute. Huh. This part wasn’t like their introductory scene of captainly yelling and daring daredeviling.

Back to work. There’s a slow pan of the camera over an impressive collection of equipment; lights, generators, tanks for cutting torches and scuba gear, C4 explosives, and Chekhov’s Gun.

… uhm, we mean a spear gun. It’s like the floor, remember?.

The crew is assigned to do a full recon of the ship before they start getting to work, making sure they know what kind of an environment they’re working in. They partner up and take sections to explore… and the competence. Ahh, the competence. Some of us like our entertainment to have signs of brain activity.

Santos is in the engine room, ranting about his boss’ ‘there is no plan’ plan (“That’s not even good English!”) to a beloved photograph… of a beautifully restored antique car. Anyone familiar with the ‘Fatal Family Photo’ trope, take a drink. Yes, it counts if it’s a car. Ah, Retirony, we hardly knew ye.

In her exploring, Epps comes across the Graza’s pool room. The pool is completely empty, bone dry. Her flashlight lingers on a set of small holes punched into the side of the pool, which look just about the right size and shape for bullets.

Dodge and Munder are heading for the main engine room, wading through about a foot and a half of water. They’re checking in with Epps via radio… or rather, trying to. The interference Greer noticed before is coming back.

Speaking of Greer, he and Murphy find the captain’s cabin, but Murphy silently keeps Greer from following him in. Captains-only, maybe. We hope it’s just a captains-only thing. The way that Murphy has been going on about the beauty of the Graza can’t possibly be healthy.

Back at the pool, there are a lot of holes and, upon climbing down to investigate, Epps finds the bullet casings to go with them. Investigation more or less complete, she begins to climb back out. Halfway up the ladder, she looks up – to behold a very familiar little girl looking down at her. In shock, she lets go of the ladder and falls. By the time her head meets the bare tile at the bottom of the pool, the girl’s vanished again.

Is it just me, or does this girl have a habit of showing up right around the time people fall?

The captain’s cabin still has pictures on the walls and the captain’s hat on the chair. Murphy explores the space reverently… until he finds a bloody straight razor in the private sink. Huh. That blood is awfully red compared to the rest of the decor.

Greer’s on his own, and is finding the atmosphere less than soothing. He finds the elevator, severely out of order due to the lack of elevator car and the mangled mess of upturned rebar at the bottom.

Munder and Dodge find the flooded engine room but still can’t contact Epps. They are becoming slightly annoyed by this.

As for Epps, she isn’t dead. That landing definitely hurt, but there’s only a small patch of blood on the tile floor as she gets up – and that blood neatly drains away into one of the many bullet holes, unnoticed. The girl is gone, but Jack is at the top of the ladder to help her out.

They speculate on the presence of the bullet casings in the pool and Epps wonders, logically, if there might have been people on the receiving end. As they go, they also fail to notice the streams of blood that are now trickling out of the bullet holes, filling the pool with red.

Back in the cabin, Murphy’s a bit sharper-eyed and finds a pristine bottle of scotch and a glass right in front of the filthy mirror. Like an alcoholic in a daze (which he is), he reaches for it, and is about to drink before he catches sight of himself in the mirror… only it’s not him. For a moment, he sees the captain of the Graza in his place, appropriately pale and ghostly and looking just a bit… pleased with himself? Murphy drops the glass in shock. Apparently momentary glimpses of ghosts are enough to smack him back into sobriety, and he leaves the cabin.

In the mirror, the dead captain watches him go, kinda like the world’s weirdest AA sponsor. Or enabler, maybe. It’s hard to tell at this point.

In other places, Greer might be hearing music, and a woman singing in crooning Italian. Dodge and Munder might be hearing it too, through their radio, but they’re sure that it’s Epps messing around with them.

Still exploring, and with momentary visions of little girls firmly behind them, Epps and Jack find the laundry room. It’s flooded, but Epps is focused on a connecting vent to the forward hold, and needs to see if that section is flooded too. She wrenches the door open and-

-WHOOSH here comes a bunch of water and OH GOD THERE ARE BODIES IN THAT WATER DON’T LET IT GET IN YOUR MOUTH. EW EW EW EW!

The water only adds a foot or so to the current flooding but Epps and Jack are more concerned about the half-dozen or so semi-decomposed bodies that are turning the water yellow. They certainly haven’t been there long enough to match the Graza’s current decor, and Epps is firmly of the mind to find Murphy, get off the Graza, and call the coast guard. Screw the salvage operation and let the ship just sink.

If I just received a faceful of zombie bathwater, I’d wanna get back to civilization pretty damn quick, myself.

Jack agrees, and they make their way back toward the stairs, only to find that the hatch has shut itself behind them and is firmly locked. Conveniently, and somewhat suspiciously, the sloshing water pushes open an alternate route.

It creaks. Ominously.

Greer explores the old ballroom, plunking at the piano in screaming need of… okay, that thing is far past needing tuning. It should be donated to a Mythbusters episode. Now it’s Greer’s turn for seeing incongruous things as he finds a still-burning cigarette in a nearby ashtray. The cigarette is marked with red lipstick. He wonders if it would belong to Epps, though the lipstick’s a shock. Screaming Floozy Pink seems to be the shade. Not really a match, personality-wise.

I dunno… Munder’s actor wore quite a lot of eyeliner in Chronicles of Riddick. Y’never know.

There’s a poster for the lovely Italian singer on the wall – Francesca. My but that plunging neckline and sultry gaze looks familiar. Greer compliments her… ‘features’, but immediately defends the beauty of “the future Mrs. Greer.” Smooth, man.

No, we never find out his fiancee’s name. Classy, that.

As Greer moves on, we see that the captain isn’t the only one playing voyeur. Francesca’s got her eye on Greer, and she’s looking very robust for someone who has to be pushing at least seventy. Or, y’know, dead.

Ghosts. Voyeurs, the lot of ‘em.

Meanwhile, Epps and Jack are following the path of conveniently opening hatches through the storage areas. Jack’s distracted by a curious find – a 1958 Jaguar X150. While normally a fine example of taste, this thing isn’t a weird illusion. It’s as neglected as the Graza, and Epps is annoyed at the delay. She’s ready to drag him away by the ear before her attention shifts to the open hatch behind Jack. Something is moving under a pile of sacks in the mail room. Epps and Jack cautiously toe away bags of long-lost letters to find an old crate, and the crate is full of RATS!

Well, also gold, but RATS FIRST AND THEY ARE A CHEAP JUMP SCARE but what the hell, it’s a horror movie. No one likes rats.

Rats being rats in a sinking ship, they get the hell out, leaving behind the gleaming wealth of gold bars in the crate. We’ve suddenly taken a slight meandering into the pirate genre. Jack is gleeful and understandably so. This is way cooler than a ‘58 Jag!

Is it? Neither of us are car people. We’re open to being enlightened. (Well, one of us is a car person, but I prefer classic cars that aren’t sports cars, so enlightenment still eludes us.)

This still doesn’t deter Epps from trying to find Murphy. Her radio’s finally showing signs of life… more or less. It’s whispering, all creepy-like, “Maureen. It’s cold.”

Apparently Maureen is her first name, but in the manner of action movies, this is the first time we’ve heard it. The rarity of its use is enough to set Epps into searching for the speakers instead of Murphy. It leads her to the slightly-flooded galley and the walk-in freezer. There are sides of meat hanging in the freezer, wrapped in cloth, and it’s fortunate that the meat is far past the point of smelling. Epps investigates, moving warily through the hanging, shrouded skeletal remains. We see the shape of a face under the cloth turn toward Epps as she passes, and-

-IT’S A JUMP SCARE IN THE FORM OF DODGE AND MUNDER BEING JACKASSES. Epps is pissed off, but come on, she was the one messing around with them by singing over the radio, right? Right?

Because we can all imagine Epps crooning throatily in Italian. Well, maybe we can, but it’s slightly out of character.

They sober up rapidly when presented with the reality of fairly fresh corpses in the laundry room and gold ingots in the vault.

Perhaps sober isn’t the right word. By the time the sun sets, Jack is utterly giggling, somewhat inappropriately, as Murphy crowbars open the rest of the crates. There are at least seven crates, all stocked full of shiny gold bars, and these are not an illusion. To hell with a derelict cruise liner, this is a payday in the hundreds of millions. Despite Greer’s insistence that gold doesn’t just vanish (a cynic would ask about the eleven hundred passengers and crew, but hey), Dodge notices that the gold is unmarked and thus probably stolen. Could it be connected to the Graza’s vanishing act? Maybe.

In a reference to the Mary Celeste story, Greer points out that something just isn’t right about the ship – in particular, the unexplained singing. Dodge and Munder respond with about as much respect and tact as the functional jerks they are, supposing that maybe Greer isn’t ready to take on Mrs. Greer just yet if he’s hallucinating about Italian voices crooning sexy nothings into his ear.

There’s more talk about contacting the Coast Guard, and more denial under risk of losing the gold in a claim. “Under maritime law,” Murphy dictates, “anything found in international waters belongs to the finder. Okay? That is the law.” Good old finder’s keepers. Of course, that sort of contradicts his reluctance to contact the Coast Guard, but when faced with that much money, people tend to get a little funny.

Plus, it’s one hell of an easier and more profitable payday than attempting to repair and tow home an enormous sinking ship. Everyone votes to take the gold back to the tug and leave the Antonia Graza to her inevitable fate.

Of course, this being a horror movie, the moment the characters make the mature and responsible decision (ie, to run like hell) you just know everything is about to go pear-shaped.

Greer, Munder and Santos are on the Arctic Warrior prepping for the trip back while Murphy and Dodge are rolling the gold along on carts for loading. The fact that Santos is talking to his photograph again, this time about the 100 million they’re estimating the cargo to be worth is another really, really bad sign.

As Santos and Greer get ready to fire up the repaired engines, we see the valve on a tank of propane slowly, slowly beginning to twist. The more experienced movie-goers amongst the audience can be picked out by the fact that they’re the ones with their hands already over their ears.

Epps is on the deck of the Graza, assembling all of their gear for transport back aboard the Arctic Warrior, the scene illuminated by a few emergency lights as night has fallen. At least the storm is over? As she does so, the little girl reappears, looking from Epps to the tug and back – before completely freaking out. Her blue frock blowing in the cold, ocean winds, she runs towards Epps, shouting, “Stop! Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing!”

At that fatal moment, Greer turns the ignition key and lets Murphy know they’re good to go. At that same moment, Santos smells something in the air of the engine room.

The little girl, halfway to Epps, is still shouting. “Don’t start the boat!” – when she appears to be tackled by something dark and disappears, screaming.

Santos has just enough time to start shouting for Greer not to start the engines –

Ka-POW!!!!

We are just past the halfway mark for this movie, and things have finally reached the point of no return. Our surviving crew is now stuck with a sinking ocean liner, complete with resident undead.

Santos is blown out of the engine room onto the deck where, set cheerfully ablaze, he manages to stagger to the edge and fall into the water. There’s a spectacular shot of the tug, similarly ablaze, as the explosion rocks the bulk of the Graza beside it. Epps is blown backward for another, more minor clonk on the head.

Screaming for Munder, Santos or Greer, she gets to the rail of the Graza just in time to see the Arctic Warrior go under. She flings herself over the side and into the really, amazingly, hypothermia-enducing cold water. Did we mention that it’s night, and down here in the water, far, far far, like a huge building’s worth of far, from the rail of the Antonia Graza and the only light down there is provided by the flickering flotsam of the just-vanishing Arctic Warrior?

This is, quite possibly, my only major technical nitpick with this entire movie. How the flaming hell does Epps expect to get back onto the Graza? Assuming she doesn’t injure herself when flinging herself into a debris-filled ocean or clonk her head on some of that same flotsam while thrashing around looking for survivors in the dark, how is she going to keep them and herself afloat without succumbing to hypothermia before they manage to fish her out again?

It’s a long, long way from the deck of an ocean liner to the water. A long way.

Then again, it was awesomely heroic.

Moving on.

Jack is also in the water, so I’m assuming he was on the tug as well. He’s got Munder, who seems to be at least semi-conscious. Epps finds Greer, who is apparently unconscious. They can’t find Santos, although Epps calls for him as she and Jack try to keep the others afloat. High above, the little girl is back. Apparently none the worse for wear, she is peering anxiously over the rail at the rescue attempts below.

An extremely creepy fade ensues.

Back aboard the Antonia Graza, Greer is receiving first aid from Epps and trying to figure out what happened. Everyone is somewhat huddled together as they try to put the pieces together. Dodge asks Jack if he’d found out anything at all about the Graza before they set out on this trip. Jack admits that, no, he hadn’t. We can forgive Dodge the memory lapse (as none of them knew the name or history of the ship till they actually got there) as everyone is more than a little upset.

Jack attempts to keep things calm by pointing out that they at least have the gold and they’re still alive. “Tell that to Santos, asshole!” is Dodge’s angry response.

As Epps tries to get everyone’s temper back under control, Jack offers, “Santos came out here of his own free will, just like the rest of us.” Dodge’s self-control snaps. He grabs Jack by the lapels and Greer has to break it up before things deteriorate further.

So much for fitting in with the crew.

Murphy is evidently taking Santos’ death pretty hard. Epps tries to reassure him that it wasn’t his fault, but he’s having none of it and stalks off, and it’s up to Epps to step in for leadership. She proposes that they do what they do best – fix the Graza, control her drift, and survive until they come across another ship, or someone comes across them for a rescue. Greer disagrees, insisting that they should utilize the materials they have and make a raft. His priority is getting off this weird boat.

Now… my problem with this is simple. A raft? In the Bering Strait? These aren’t subtropical waters or an easy climate to survive in when you’re wet – even in the middle of the summer. I’ll give him some credit and assume he doesn’t mean one of those ridiculous square things you see in the movies, but… yeah, no. They could probably construct a fairly decent small boat with the materials they have, or some reasonable alternative, but I’m pretty sure the currents around there would just wash them up on the islands and then the Graza would come to them! So anyway… movie.

There’s the matter of the three day deadline, too. Munder’s stressed that they can’t do anything substantial, raft or otherwise, in that short of a window, to which Greer pulls out the line of ‘if they’d done it his way –

There is a predictable reaction to all of this, and Greer ends up swinging on Munder and getting in a good shot to his jaw. Dodge drags him off while Epps takes a look at Munder’s face. Upshot seems to be that they’ll do it Epps’ way – wait till morning and then begin repairs.

Horror movies almost invariably include this development. Whether it’s a handful of strangers or a closely-knit team, there will be a splintering. Sides will be chosen. The centre will not hold, and all that. Sometimes it’s done to create a second obstacle for our protagonists to overcome, and sometimes it’s done to showcase the horrible dark side of human nature that will turn on itself like a peckish cannibal leper. Fortunately, this is the first version of that. The second version tends to be nightmarishly depressing… but we’ll get back to that later.

To indicate a passage of time, there’s a long, moody pan over one of the themed murals that decorate the Graza’s walls, in particular the pool room. The imagery seems to be a combination of Greco-Roman mythology and despair – several barely-clad men and women writhe and contort under the harsh shepherding of maybe-Poseidon. I’ve never known Poseidon to be wielding a staff with a barbed hook on the end. He’s always been more of a trident sort of guy.

Maybe it’s less nautical theme, more lower circle of Hell, but that’s one creepy thing to paint on your pool room wall.

In any case, the ghostly little girl is dancing like nobody’s watching along the edge of the empty pool… with no blood in sight. The image fades to dark, moonlit waves, and the Graza’s prow.

Murphy is alone, moping in the captain’s quarters and eventually giving in to the bottle of scotch. While it was perhaps both inevitable and foreshadowed that he’d lose his battle with alcoholism… Murphy, now was possibly the worst time ever to fall off the wagon. Er, ship.

In her spare time, Epps is searching the passenger lists for a name. It appears that there was a little girl on the Graza, and she was travelling alone – Katie Harwood.

Dodge and Munder are amusing themselves in the galley, speculating ghoulishly on what killed the passengers and how. Curiously, we learn this fact because Jack is sitting quietly in the supposedly powerless bridge, listening to their merry japes about poison through the intercom system. As we see the camera pan over the messy, can-strewn galley (funny, I can’t imagine why cruise ships would keep cans of rodent poison with their tinned beans), Dodge and Munder are playing rock-paper-scissors over who’s going to try eating the 40 year old beans. Hey, if it says ‘non-perishable’ on the can, right? At least we see the cast acknowledging such things as ‘shit, all of our food was on our tugboat that blew up.’ Even one day without food can really hit you if you’re used to a very strenuous and stressful job.

Over in the ballroom, Greer is taking the less calorie-conscious route, namely swigging a very dirty-looking bottle of champagne as he mopes over his favorite ruined piano and stares mournfully at a picture of his fiancee. Also talking to it. Greer, man, did you learn nothing by what happened to Santos?

Back in the galley, Munder wincingly tries the beans… and declares them to be great! He and Dodge immediately start stuffing their faces from this rather bean-centric smorgasbord.

Epps, meanwhile, is alone, and searching for Katie’s room – and somewhat quietly speaking the girl’s name as she does so. It makes you wonder how anchored to reality her sanity has become, as I wouldn’t go intentionally hunting ghosts in a dead ocean liner with only my flashlight for company. There’s no power on the ship, and no air circulation, but she’s suddenly startled by all of the doors along the hallway slamming shut like dominoes… save for one, that gently creaks open.

Guess whose room that is. Just guess.

Dodge and Munder are sharing comical (and somewhat crass) boasts of what they’re going to buy for the other with their share of the gold. Their moods are certainly improving, right up until Munder points out a bit of rice stuck on Dodge’s face.

That’s not rice. Rice doesn’t squirm.

Whether the tins of tasty beans and rice were just an illusion for the masses of writhing maggots or whether the bugs were only taking up the bottom 95% of the sealed tins isn’t ever made clear. It doesn’t matter much, because Dodge and Munder flee the galley, scraping at their tongues and retching. So much for dinner.

Epps, meanwhile, has cautiously opened the door to Katie’s stateroom. The ominous creak is broken by another soft call of the girl’s name. Epps… remember what happened the last time you saw this kid? She slowly investigates the room, which is strewn with toys and dolls, an open steamer trunk with a little girl’s clothes hanging inside and children’s drawings covering the walls. She looks at the crayon pictures, touching them with a fond smile. These particular pictures are covering the door to… a bathroom? A closet? I’m not certain. As she touches them, the door swings open.

Epps finds herself face to face with the dessicated corpse of a little girl in a very familiar blue dress, suspended from the ceiling. We fade out to her shocked scream.

Back in the ballroom, Greer has finished his bottle and is wandering across the room – presumably in search of more. As he wanders (it’s not quite a stagger), a bright light suddenly shines down on him. He shades his eyes, bewildered… and that’s when things start to get weird. As he looks around wildly, the ruined furnishings surrounding the dance floor suddenly pull themselves upright. The shattered crystal and dingy tableware sparkles brightly. Paint peels itself back up the walls, the crystal chandelier reassembles itself and soars upward as the beautiful wood of the dance floor regains its shine.

If you’ve seen that scene in ‘Silent Hill’ where everything comes apart, this is just like that. Only in reverse. Also far prettier.

As the room lights up entirely, Greer finds himself surrounded by a crowd of men in evening dress, all of them applauding. Francesca is on the stage in her iconic strapless red dress, eyeing Greer with an expression that can only be called rawr.

Greer, are you sure that champagne was sealed when you found it? Do maggots ferment?

Not all ghostly hallucinations are so dramatic. Murphy is sitting by the captain’s desk, head on his arms. He’s startled when the captain of the Antonia Graza appears on the opposite side of the desk… and pours him a drink.

In the ballroom, Francesca approaches Greer and plants a kiss on his cheek. Greer resists… but not very hard. “You can’t cheat on your fiancee with a dead girl, right?”

Sweetheart, in a movie like this, that’s signing your own death warrant. The guy who cheats on the girl waiting at home never survives. And no one in the audience will mourn you, either. Jerk.

In Katie’s room, Epps has removed a heart-shaped locked from the corpse of the little girl, with much wincing and minor cringing. Inside is a picture of two adults, most likely Katie’s parents. This is a perfect moment for Katie to reappear behind Epps, and the two of them actually have something like a conversation. To Epps’ credit, she’s a lot more spooked than Greer is, although she’s had a lot less alcohol and was actively searching for ghosts.

Katie was travelling to meet her parents in New York, and, now dead, she hasn’t been able to see their pictures since she died. Epps tries to hand the locket back, but it passes through Katie’s hand.

In the ballroom, Francesca has moved on from dancing and now saunters away from Greer, slowly undoing the zipper of her dress. It’s a subtle detail that Greer obviously doesn’t pick up on, but the ballroom isn’t so opulent anymore, or even populated… and nearly all of the lights have gone out. Of course, he’s a bit focused on that dress and how it’s opening – and how she’s slowly moving away.

Murphy is venting his troubles to the undead captain. The captain offers over a logbook, and Murphy starts to leaf through it. Apparently, before the Graza disappeared, they found a wounded ship of their own, the Lorelei. Murphy, being the resident nautical lore expert, has heard of this one, too!

“I’ll take ‘Mysteriously Vanished Ocean Liners’ for one thousand, Alex!”

There are photographs of some very familiar-looking crates being loaded from the Lorelei to the Graza. The Graza found her two days before they, too, vanished. Coincidence? Anyone who knows their mythology, or even what a ‘lorelei’ is, take a drink.

The last thing the deceased captain has to offer Murphy is a photograph of the Lorelei’s sole survivor. We don’t get to see the picture, but Murphy freaks right the heck out. Of course, he’s also just had his first (or possibly more) drink in a long time, so who knows what he’s seeing? Right? Right?

Yeah, we didn’t believe it either.

Francesca continues leading Greer onward with tantalizing glimpses of her very attractive curves as her dress makes its way floorward. Greer follows her down the stairs, through the foyer and around the empty pillar of an ornamental aquarium… man, he’s really going for this ‘dead girl’ thing.

Epps and Katie continue their conversation, but Katie is being rather hesitant about some details, if forthright about being dead. Her shipmates are all dead and their spirits are trapped on the ship, even those that aren’t ‘marked’, whatever that implies. Epps tries to coax more answers out of her, but Katie is becoming increasingly frightened. She’s talking about a ‘he’, collecting souls and filling a quota, and about being ferried-

At that moment, rust starts to bleed from the ceiling, although Epps can’t see it. Katie promptly freaks out. Whoever ‘he’ is, he’s apparently not fond of the Katie’s efforts to communicate with Epps. Which probably makes ‘him’ the guy or whatever that tackled her when she tried to warn Epps the first time. Katie insists that she’s not like the others, and shows Epps her empty palm… whatever that means… and she beseeches Epps to leave the ship while she still can.

Then she’s gone, with a despairing scream, and Epps calls fruitlessly for her.

She’s not the only one yelling names. Murphy staggers through the pool room, searching for Epps, but instead finds himself nose to nose with another familiar, albeit crispy, face – Santos. If it wasn’t clear on sight that Santos is truly dead, he proceeds to stalk Murphy with a lovely commentary about how lying on the bottom of the ocean kinda sucks. No virgins, no pearly gates, but he’s picked up this dandy new talent of appearing directly in front of Murphy no matter where his former captain turns. It does nothing for Murphy’s sanity that Santos also blames Murphy for his death. Guilt’s a killer.

Speaking of sanity, Francesca is waiting for Greer in a dingy little alcove with a sultry look over her shoulder, and Greer is actively removing his clothes. Ye gads, man, there’s fantasy and then there’s delusion. If the audience can’t imagine Greer’s life expectancy now being counted down by the second, they haven’t seen enough horror movies.

Greer leans in for the groping… and promptly falls through Francesca. That wasn’t a little alcove she was leaning in, that was the elevator shaft. Francesca doesn’t look all that repentant, either, mainly because she’s now looking about as old and dead as she should be. Greer impacts with an unsavory ‘squorch’ and is left to bleed decoratively about the place.

Let’s see now. Who’s left?

With her flashlight’s beam swinging wildly along the corridor, Epps is searching for Murphy, and finds him, but Murphy doesn’t see her. In her place, he sees Santos, and instead of a flashlight, there’s a knife in Santos’ fire-scarred hand. Apparently desperation gets the better of Murphy, and he attacks. As Epps tries to protest, Santos twists her words into more taunts, egging Murphy on. They struggle, but Murphy is clearly the stronger, and is about to beat her to a pulp with the butt of a spear gun before Jack arrives to intervene. The flat end of a fire extinguisher to Murphy’s head ends the fight pretty quick, and Murphy is dumped into the pillar aquarium in the foyer for safekeeping.

Epps argues, with surprising compassion, that Murphy was drunk and thus had no idea what was actually happening. She’s overruled, firmly, by Dodge. “He just tried to kill you. He stays in there.” Munder and Jack are in agreement, and Murphy is left at the bottom of the very large aquarium to regain consciousness and, hopefully, sober up.

The day dawns, and there’s no sign of Greer to be found. Jack asks if Munder and Dodge are sticking with their theory that the crew and passengers of the Graza were poisoned for the gold, and Dodge asks about the heart locket that Epps is now wearing.

Epps insists that despite their troubles, they have to get to work. It’s daylight, and the current’s still dragging the Graza toward the islands. Armed with their SCUBA gear, C4, welding torches, and steel plating, they patch the massive hole in the Graza’s hull and start up their portable pumps to drain the water. We’re back to the teamwork and the competence again, and it’s nice. No moping, no waste of time or daylight. They get the Graza’s rudder moving (also the compass, which was broken before, but it’s a small flub), and are set to drift clear of the islands.

So far, so good, right? “We may get out of this yet,” Dodge says to Munder and Epps in the engine room.

Remember the last time things were going smoothly in this movie?

Epps leaves them to man the water pumps and leaves to search for Greer. Again. The man’s been missing for quite some time now, but if you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, it’s not completely unfeasible that it would take hours to search the place. And in the dark. With decking that might drop from beneath you at any moment. That sort of things slows a search down.

Not that Epps has to search for very long before Katie shows up to play signpost. With his fiancee’s photograph in his hand (and his pants still open), Greer is speared through by the broken elevator cables, and very obviously dead.

In the engine room, one of the pumps has become clogged.

Da Dah DUM!

Guys, you’re in a horror movie and things look like they’re going smoothly. This means that splitting up to address a problem is the worst idea ever.

As Epps laments over her dead teammate, Katie interrupts. “I want to show you something.” With her glowy, ghostly hand, she reaches into Epps’ chest.

Now we get a very helpful flashback. Or music video. One of the two. Katie’s apparently found a way to pass on information without attracting the attention of the all-powerful ‘him’ and wants Epps to know the real story. She doesn’t need to say a word… she just shows.

We would like to call this scene ‘Satan’s Dominoes’.

It starts on the night of the dance you may remember from the opening scene. In the galley, the real cooks have been shot, and the replacements are ladling out soup that has been thoroughly garnished with rat poison. Yummy. While the guests are getting sick in the dining room, the dance out on the deck is shredded in half by the wire incident, and the ghostly Katie watches her past self shriek with horror. Poor little Katie then fled through the halls, which were by that time a scene of utter mayhem as the traitorous crew slaughtered officers and guests alike. The kind officer that had played with her gets his throat slashed by a straight razor – his murderers letting him fall as they lunge after the terrified little girl.

In the galley, pots are overturned to reveal guns of all shapes and sizes, and then distributed amongst the stewards who apparently instigated the mayhem. Surviving guests, or those who passed on the shrimp bisque, are lined up in front of the pool and gunned down, falling backward into red water already choked with bodies.

There’s one particular shooter, clad in an officer’s uniform, who promptly stabs the head steward and adds him to the pile. He seems to be the only officer actually involved in this… intensely bloody mess. There were 1100 people aboard the Antonia Graza. The bodies are falling very, very quickly, given the number of people involved.

Poor Katie is dragged to her room by two stewards with a straight razor. We know how this ends.

In the cargo hold, a familiar door is blown open – the mail room. The stewards rush in to celebrate their blood-earned spoils, the crates of ingots, and the familiar red-clad shape of Francesca saunters after them. While the stewards are distracted, the officer flicks off the safety of his submachine gun and sprays the lot of them down (getting a few rounds in the ‘58 Jag for good measure). He turns back to Francesca, apparently for her approval, only to find the siren songstress holding a pistol to his forehead.

See what we mean by ‘dominoes’?

Over Francesca’s shoulder, a single man approaches from the shadows. Francesca was clearly expecting him, as she throws her gun away and waits for him with a smile and a cocked hip. We watch from over his shoulder as he swaggers to Francesca. They embrace, indulging in the sort of kiss that makes it obvious how he bought her cooperation.

Relationships built through mass murder tend not to last, although this one may’ve set a few records for speed. It’s rather clear in the malevolent glance that the man flicks over her shoulder that this is no Bonnie and Clyde.

The kiss abruptly ends, and we see Francesca’s confusion as her dark suitor steps away. You can see it dawn on her face. Satan’s Dominoes. “The stewards killed the cooks and the officers, they killed the passengers, the officer killed the head steward and the survivors, I killed him and – oh no. Nonono-”

Francesca’s horrified realization comes to a rather abrupt halt as a cargo hook comes loose from the ceiling and catches her right in the jaw.

Remember how we said this movie doesn’t skimp on the gore? We get a lovely shot of Francesca’s body swinging left and right, dribbling blood over the spent bullet casings on the floor. She twitches. The mysterious mastermind snatches the red evening glove off of her arm and presses his hand against her bare palm – he’s branded her with the mark of a barbed hook.

Epps about has heart failure as the familiar face of Jack is revealed when he abruptly releases Francesca and steps back, licking his lips like a monster and staring right at her.

Everything falls so neatly into place, from Jack approaching them in the bar to all of his timely appearances with every disaster they’ve encountered. Epps rips herself out of the vision as she realizes what, exactly, this means for her immediate concerns.

Murphy.

By the time she reaches the aquarium, it’s too late. When they sealed him in, no one noticed the valve that set water pouring into the tank, and Murphy is floating lifelessly in the greenish soup. In his fingers is the last photo from the captain’s cabin – Jack, the sole survivor of the Lorelei.

Epps doesn’t take it very well, and Katie watches in helpless sympathy.

A good horror movie is one that can not only scare you, but also use its characters to make you appreciate the meaning of the word. Finding out that the mysterious stranger that led you to a derelict ship is the reason why the ship become derelict in the first place… that’s scary. Finding your good friend and father figure dead because you put him in there and left him alone when he knew the truth… that’s horror. Epps reacts realistically and very in-character, and it’s a good scene.

The body count ain’t over.

In the engine room, Munder is investigating the clogged pump. Alone. Underwater. Swimming through a compartment of serrated gears. Yeah, this’ll end well.

Dodge has apparently left him to it, as Epps finds him in the bridge, manning the helm to keep the Graza going in the right direction. Epps doesn’t spare any words. Murphy is dead, and they’re getting off the boat now, as ‘he’ only needed to keep them alive to fix the boat.

Jack’s right behind her, asking what’s going on and looking very frazzled and worried. Epps quickly shifts her tone, and orders Dodge and Jack to stay on the rudder as she goes to get Munder and check on the welds. Pointedly, she tells Dodge, “I do not want you out of each other’s sight,” and hands him her shotgun.

We already know it’s too late for Munder. The gears mysteriously start up, his flippers get caught… yeah. In SCUBA, no one can hear you scream. Epps slides down the engine room ladder just in time to see the pump start sucking up red water, and Munder’s shredded face is resting on the floor like a bad rubber mask.

On the bridge, the Graza has just barely cleared the islands. Jack relaxes, and volunteers to go check on Epps. Dodge, trusting his teammate over Jack, insists that they follow Epps’ orders and stay put. Jack grudgingly turns back to the window… and changes.

His entire demeanor just shifts a little to one side. Gone is the curious, benign weather pilot, and his voice is utterly dripping with scorn as he tells Dodge, “You disgust me.”

Dodge has no idea what Jack is talking about, and it shows.

Jack continues to dig at him, saying he has no time for this and that he’s going after Epps. Dodge pulls the gun, perfectly willing to stick with Epps’ orders despite Jack’s accusations that he’s Epps’ lapdog.

“You know, Dodge, if you kill somebody you go to hell.” He goes for Dodge, Dodge fires…. and yeah, we know this won’t end well. Dodge moves to have a look at the corpse and then races off to find Epps. Behind him, Jack’s eyes move to follow him.

Epps, meanwhile, is busy in the hold with all that lovely C4 and her detonators. Dodge comes running in to inform her that, “I shot Ferriman. He’s dead.”

Epps tells him that she’s sinking the boat. Dodge says that’ll kill them, and she gives a hollow laugh. The boat has claimed it’s last victim, as far as she’s concerned and they’ll just have to take their chances.

“What about the gold?”

“Are you kidding?”

Dodge continues to wheedle, offering a life together, etc – and Epps is still having none of that and Dodge lunges. She’s got the trigger detonator in one hand and lunges back. Dodge throws a hissy fit, tosses things around –

“Hey Dodge. Why haven’t you asked me where Munder is?”

In one of the creepiest special effects fades ever, Dodge starts laughing – but by the time he stops, it’s Jack. He turns to face Epps, smile slipping from his face as if it had never existed. “Well, I guess that’s because I already know.”

So now it’s just Jack and Epps in the hold of a rotted out ocean liner. Of course, she’s got the detonator for all that C4, but we all know it’s not going to be that easy.

Jack does not slip into monologuing, thankfully, but he does admit that Katie was right. Souls without sin can’t be marked, and that makes them ‘difficult to control’. But he’s sure that Epps won’t blow the boat. Murder is a sin, and that’s how he got Dodge.

“What the fuck are you?”

A very good question, that. We’d like to take this opportunity to point out that the guy’s last name is ‘Ferriman’ and he’s carrying souls around in a boat. You do the math.

He tells her that he’s a salvager, “Just like you. You collect ships. I collect souls.”

He goes on to explain that it’s just a job. Once the ship is ‘full’ then he can send it along and management will be happy.

That’s… actually damn creepy. Jack’s pretty fucking malevolent. Do you really want to contemplate an entire organization? Especially one in which he’s only a junior member? Apparently he was once alive, and a pretty horrible person – not that this is a surprise.

He offers her the ship for her life. She refuses, stating that she wants her crew back. Jack says that this is impossible, and that once a soul is marked, they belong to him. Epps takes that as a final answer and decides to blow the ship. A moment later, a rusted pipe cracks into her and sends her and the detonator flying.

Jack jumps into the still flooded hold after her, grabbing her as she struggles and working to drown her. “All you had to do was fix the ship!”

She manages to pull herself free, coming up with what looks to be Munder’s speargun, which had been lying on the bottom of the hold after Jack/Dodge tossed it in during his hissy fit.

“What’re you going to do, shoot me?”

No, actually. She can see the detonator very clearly from here, and –

Wow. That’s a really pretty explosion.

As the ship goes down, Katie leads Epps out through the jagged maze of the wreckage. As Epps swims to the surface, she is accompanied by a glowing crowd of ghosts that have been set free, and they all fade away into the sky in a glorious upward spiral as the aurora borealis provides a backdrop. The ship, predictably, sinks.

We pull away, leaving Epps to cling to a bit of flotsam like an extra from the ‘Titanic’.

With no small amount of irony, she’s found, parched and weak, by a cruise liner. In all honesty, she should have been dead in a very short time, what with the Bering Strait and all, but we’ve been over that.

The cruise ship makes it safely into port, and Epps is carried down to a waiting ambulance. As she loaded in and made comfortable, she sees the cruise ship’s stewards carrying supplies up the gangway –

– in a very familiar set of crates. As the somewhat dazed horror begins to set in, maybe she’s hallucinating, maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s – holy shit, no maybes at all! That’s Jack, following his crates of gold up into yet another doomed ship.

As Epps starts to scream and the ambulance doors slam shut, Jack looks right at her with a glance that could be interpreted in about a dozen different ways – all of them very, very bad.

And that’s ‘Ghost Ship’.

I found it a very difficult movie to poke holes in because even on those few occasions where there were nits to be picked… it was still an enjoyable movie with interesting characters and very few truly stupid choices on the part of our protagonists.

Plus, you know, scary.

On the technical side, it’s a well-made movie. It takes total advantage of the foreboding landscape of a once-opulent ship fallen into ruin, and successfully creates a mood that it carries all the way to the final shot. The rock-flavored soundtrack, while somewhat anachronistic to the flashbacks, is well chosen and provides the right edge of sleaze and malevolence to the Graza’s bloody past.

In particular, we could watch that scene of Satan’s Dominoes over and over. This movie was made in 2002, four years before Zack Snyder played with slow-motion-fast-motion-slow-motion in ‘300’ and uses the same thing in a much more subtle way. It creates a visual hint of things being just slightly off balance and out of control, which works. The music actually fed into the scene without distracting or detracting from it and helped fuel the feeling of dissonance.

The story is tight and concise, and the plot holes are few and forgivable. There’s rewatching value in the many, many shots that sneak in foreshadowing and symbolism, and none of it is out of place. Plus, it’s a rare movie that has the balls to let us know that the while the protagonist might survive, they don’t necessarily win. Ferriman is an excellent villain, with Desmond Harrington capturing that shift between red herring and evil shark, and Julianna Margulies provides a take-charge, competent heroine much in the same spirit as Ripley from ‘Aliens’.

Only, you know, with fewer panic attacks and no cats.

So we recommend this movie. We’ve seen it multiple times and we enjoy it. Of course, it is a movie about mass murdering demonic entities on a cruise ship, so YMMV.

-Urban Amazon
-Truth

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About Popcorn Mice

Hi. We're the Urban Amazon and her sidekick, Truth. This blog is dedicated to recap and commentary of various movies in a hopefully humorous fashion. Said movies are mostly of the horror/action/adventure/science fiction and fantasy genres, as that's where our interests lie. Our efforts will, hopefully, amuse and entertain.
This entry was posted in 2002, Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Legged Beasties and Things that Go Bump in the Night, Hell is Also a Place on Earth, Ocean Liners or Why a Cruise is a Terrible Idea. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ghost Ship – 2002

  1. I LOVED this review. Ghost Ship is an old favourite of mine and has been ever since I saw the wire scene at a young, young age. It’s the reason I love horror (even if I was *immediately* sent to bed) and I remember the shocked panic and the details of people’s clothes crumpling, which you describe so beautifully, as being the moment I stopped being scared of the genre and started being fascinated by how horror worked (I’m now doing a post-grad study on the uncanny). Over the years a lot of people have called it a guilty pleasure and somewhere along the line I started feeling like I had to justify it as this silly movie I like. Thank you for reminding me how good it is.

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