• Ghost Ship (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Steve Beck
    Cast: Julianna Margulies, Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, Isaiah Washington, Emily Browning
    Year: 2002
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    Ghost Ship – Movie Review:

    Written by Mark Hanlon and directed by Steve Beck, the man who gave us Thir13en Ghosts a year prior, 2002’s Ghost Ship begins its story when a man named Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) hires a salvage crew to bring back a cruise ship that has recently been found in international waters after having been missing for decades, everyone on board presumed dead.

    Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), the man in charge of the team, is curious about the story behind this one but he and his team accept the job. Once they make their way to the ship and start poking around, they soon discover a pretty sizeable stash of gold bars. Greer (Isaiah Washington) thinks that they should report this to the proper authorities but Murphy and the rest think otherwise. They also realize that the ship is in disrepair and that it’ll take a few days to get it in decent enough shape to be towed back to the mainland.

    Of course, it isn’t long before strange things start happening. Their tugboat mysteriously explodes and crew member Santos (Alex Demitriades) is killed shortly after. Of course, with the tug gone, Murphy and the rest - Epps (Julianna Margulies), Dodge (Ron Eldard), Munder (Karl Urban) - are pretty much stuck on this ship, a ship that seems intent on making sure that they don’t make it back alive.

    Ghost Ship was savaged by critics when it hit theaters almost twenty-years ago, and time, quite frankly, hasn’t been particularly kind to the movie. That said, it does have a few things that work in its favor. The set design is excellent and the ship itself a massive and genuinely eerie location to place a horror film (to see how this can be done right, check out Death Ship). The film’s opening scene, that shows what happened on the ship long before Murphy and crew were called in to salvage her, is pretty damn impressive and a fine piece of remarkably gory special effects work. Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard and Isaiah Washington are all fine actors who handle the material reasonably well, though Gabriel Byrne, who is really the lead here, seems like he’s waiting for nap time. Karl Urban is fun to watch here as well and a young Emily Browning has an interesting supporting role that we won’t go into in order to avoid spoilers.

    The problem is that after that great opening scene the movie is content to rest on its laurels, playing things by the most generic horror movie standards you can imagine. As such, there’s really no suspense here. The filmmakers try, hitting us with jump scares and loud musical stings and throwing a bit more gore at us here and there, but the characters are all shallow clichés and hard to really care about. The twist that they throw at us towards the end of the film is tired and predictable and the picture never really succeeds in building any actual suspense simply because we know what’s happening and don’t care when it does.

    This one had potential, but it fails to ever reach it.

    Ghost Ship – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Ghost Ship to Blu-ray in a presentation that would appear to be sourced from the same transfer that was used for the Warner Brothers Blu-ray release from a few years back. The image is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, with the feature given 26.4GBs of space on the 50GB disc. It’s a good transfer that stops short of reference quality, showing nice detail while still looking just a tad soft at times and occasionally struggling with some flatness. Colors look nice, they’re reproduced very well, and there are no problems with any noticeable compression issues to gripe about. Skin tones look good, black levels are solid enough even if, during the scenes with a lot of CGI, they can sometimes look a bit lighter than maybe would be ideal.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track scores full marks. This is a very aggressive track that, once the action moves to the house, is loaded with excellent directional effects and a host of impressive depth. Dialogue always stays clean and clear and the track is perfectly balanced. The score has some strength behind it, as do all of the effects. In short, this sounds fantastic. An optional DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also included and removable subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extra features start off with a new audio commentary with Director Steve Beck moderated by Justin Beahm. They talk about how this picture came right on the tail end of making Thir13en Ghosts for Dark Castle, how were trying to 'own the Halloween release weekend' and, as such, wanted a follow up to the earlier film. He talks about how the project started as Chimera and evolved into Ghost Ship over time, how the events of 9/11 affected the film, differences between the finished version of the movie and the script, having to talk different actors through their scenes, what it's like using a child actor on a horror film like this and his admiration of director's who have made amazing catalogues of films (he mentions Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg in this regard) simply because it is so draining to make a feature. As the track goes on, they cover the rushed production schedule, preparing for the underwater sequences, working with the different cast and crew members, comparisons to The Shining, reshoots that were required, the main challenges that he faced while making Ghost Ship and attempts to 'come up with the fright,' his own relationship with the material as a hired director, attempts to make his work as visually captivating as possible, the different types of directors and the different work that they do, his thoughts on the film overall since he made it and more. It's an excellent commentary, very active with no dead air and plenty of information and anecdotes.

    Shout! Factory has also come up with a few new featurettes, starting with This Isn’t Real, an interview with Actor Isaiah Washington. Here, over seven-minutes, he details how he landed the role after working on Eastwood’s True Crime, seeing the lead role go Byrne, working with some of his co-stars and changes that were made to his death scene. Dark Castle At Sea is a new interview with Producer Gil Adler that clocks in at seven-minutes. He speaks about wanting Becks to direct after his work on Thir13en Ghosts, intentions that he and the others had in making this film, hopes to make a genuinely scary film and do great things with an ensemble cast and more. The last new interview is a six-minute piece called Every Body On Board, which gets Makeup Effects Supervisor Jason Baird in front of the camera to talk about his work on the Star Wars and Matrix sequels and how they got him this gig, what went into creating the film’s memorable opening sequence and how tough it can be working on a film shoot that has so much water in it.

    Archival featurettes carried over from past editions include Max On Set: Ghost Ship Featurette, a fifteen-minute vintage EPK styled piece that features some nice behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. We also get an older six-minute Visual Effects featurette that takes a close look at some of the more impressive set pieces from the feature, which ties in nicely with A Closer Look At The Gore, a six-minute piece that, well, details how the gore scenes were done. The six-minute Designing The Ghost Ship featurette explores the film’s impressive production values and set design. Secrets Of The Antonia Graza is a six-minute piece that viewers explore the history of the ship as it pertains to the mythology established in the feature film.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a video f or Mudvayne’s “Not Falling,” the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Shout! Factory also packages this release with some reversible cover sleeve art and, for its first pressing, a limited edition slipcover.

    Ghost Ship – The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory gives a not so great film a great release. Ghost Ship starts off strongly but falls apart pretty quickly, which is a shame as the concept is cool and there are some good people in the cast. Fans of the film can consider this recommended, however, as the presentation is strong and the extras both plentiful and interesting.

    Click on the images below for full sized Ghost Ship Blu-ray screen caps!