When Ghost Ship was released in 2002, it was an anomaly. While the film made money, it was met with middling reviews, and its old-fashioned storytelling didn’t appeal to young horror audiences at the time. Even though it has one of the best opening scenes in a horror movie, it’s faded into obscurity. It’s time to take a closer look at this interesting little haunted house movie.
Not only does Steve Beck’s Ghost Ship boast a stunning cast of characters that features everyone from Emily Browning to Karl Urban, but its Gothic storytelling keeps the film from feeling too dated. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s worth checking out in its entirety, especially if you’ve only watched those opening moments.
‘Ghost Ship’ Is A Haunted House Story In The Far More Threatening Location Of An Abandoned Ocean Liner
There are a million haunted house movies. Not only do they all play out similarly, but they all kind of look the same. After all, a house is just a house. Ghost Ship takes the haunted house concept and puts it on an abandoned ocean liner called Antonio Garza.
The update on the look of the story doesn’t just make the ghost story feel fresh, but it creates different kinds of tension that you’ll find in a movie like an Amityville Horror remake. The final act of the movie submerges the cast waist deep in water, which is something that you’re not going to get in a regular ol’ haunted house.
Scenes With The Cast Exploring The Abandoned Liner Are Genuinely Creepy
Before any of the ghost stuff starts to happen, the salvage crew of the Arctic Warrior makes their way through the mysterious ship, and inside they find decades of rot and water damage. Nothing about the crew's walk through the ship feels safe, especially if you have a water phobia.
There's so much space on this ship for something to hide. There are corners upon corners where someone or something could be hiding, which makes the early trip through the Antonio Garza so unsettling. Even though the ship is filled with ghosts, it's clear the spirits aren't the only things to be worried about on this salvage job.
The Opening Scene Alone Has Stood The Test Of Time
There’s a reason that Ghost Ship continually shows up on best-of lists - this intro is amazing. The movie opens in medias res with a ball aboard an ocean liner. Everyone but a little girl dressed in white is having a great time.
As the partygoers dance, no one realizes a wire cord is loosening from a hand lever. When it gets free, it rips through everyone on the dance floor, as well as the Italian singer and her band. People are cut in half, their heads are lopped off, and as they hit the floor, people are reaching for their steaming guts and screaming all while this little girl watches. It’s legitimately wild, and if you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must check it out.
‘Ghost Ship’ Does Not Pretend To Be Anything Other Than An Old-Fashioned Ghost Story
When the Dark Castle logo appears on screen at the beginning of the movie, it should be clear to the audience they're in for a straightforward ghost story with no frills or anything fancy. Named for acclaimed B-movie horror director William Castle, the earliest films on Dark Castle's slate were either remakes of '50s horror films or films with the same sensibility.
Ghost Ship in particular owes a major debt to Castle films like The House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler. Like those films, Ghost Ship makes a meal out of its overwhelming location, using the same storytelling techniques and a Gothic ghost story.