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In a sea of poor imitations (get it?), Ghost Ship will seem like yet another in the line of terrifying trips to hell and back and in a way it still is ... there's only so much you can do with the horror genre that hasn't been seen before. But thankfully this story enjoys the traditional element of slow reveals to help keep it afloat long enough for you to enjoy the visual effects if not the quite beautifully disgusting images that adorn the screen as well. So if you're not keen on blood 'n guts, then you can stop reading this review.

Ghost Ship
Make sure if you ever have this DVD in your possession that your children cannot accidentally watch it ... the portrayal of human dismemberment has never been so uniquely visualised as it is here. Some will say that this kind of carnage is completely unnecessary for the advancement of a movie's plot, but even as exploitative as this film might seem at first it truly shows the ugly consequences of dishing out an untimely death as well as the effects of greed in either of its well-intentioned or reprehensible forms.

Movie
In 1962, the world's most glamorous cruise-liner 'Antonia Grazia' sets sail with a full complement of crew and privledged (make that rich) patrons, only to disappear without trace in the open seas.

Forty years later a salvage crew on their beloved 'Arctic Warrior' headed by Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) has retrieved yet another vessel which almost sunk them in the process as well. The crew includes Epps (Julianna Margulies), Greer (Isaiah Washington), Dodge (Ron Eldard), Munder (Karl Urban) and Santos (Alex Dimitriades). As they celebrate their latest success, a stranger by the name of Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) comes forward with a curious offer - a mysterious ship was photographed on his aerial route and he requires the help of an experienced rescue team to reap the rewards for its recovery.

The gang are initially hesitant but eventually decide to take on the job, although Jack stipulates that he'll come along to protect his finder's fee. When they arrive at their destination they begin to discover that things just don't quite seem right ... what with the ship appearing right in front of them without warning and the various apparitions and bizarre goings-on. But like all typical movie-based characters who like to walk down the stairs of an unlit basement with a faulty flashlight (backwards), they decide to search the bowels of the ship just in case there is anything worth cashing in on if the ship cannot be reclaimed.

Ghost Ship
And just when things seemed to be turning for the worst, they come across many cases of gold bullion which changes their otherwise darn fine plan of barely escaping with their lives intact with nothing to show for their trouble. However what they have uncovered is a terror unbenownst to those of the living as they are aboard a ship that houses the dead, but they must uncover the truth soon before it is all too late.

The only person who ever saw any sense in leaving straight away here was the black guy ... at least this proves Eddie Murphy's theory about how white folk tend to stay inside haunted structures even when all the warning signs are there ... like "Get Out!"

Video
This is as close to reference quality as you can get, however I'll have to dock one mark off because the image here exhibits that of the typical flat or dull look which computer-generated films often succumb to.

If you've ever watched The Abyss you might already know about the surreptitious use of water-reflections against the actors and backgrounds - well, Ghost Ship uses this effect in overdrive in almost every scene imaginable. Unfortunately, these highlights again tend to lose a lot of their sheen when everything has been filtered down into a computer for all the image manipulation, so it's a shame that this extra sparkle isn't allowed to shine through and it just comes across as almost lifeless in the end for me (yes, even though we're on an ethereally dead boat). Other than this shortcoming, everything else is spot on.

The black levels are as deep as the ocean floorbed with shadow detail thankfully as descriptive as it could possibly be in such a dark environment for most of its running time. Colours are suitably dreary even in the happier scenes, although if one wants to nitpick (and if you start looking for it) there is a noticable change of tonal quality within the very first sequence, even when it's exactly the same scene where nothing should have changed in the lighting conditions on board the ship. Grain is barely registerable along with a complete lack of any digital or film artifacts getting in the way. Image is as moody as one would expect with pretty sharp focus throughout although still with a hint of softness.

Ghost Ship
Audio
Can't get much better than this, this is what discrete soundmixing was made for.

Dialogue was easy to understand at all times although there are many subtle phrases being ushered from within the confines of this floating palace on its way to hell. The surrounds aren't used as much as they could have been in terms of mega-directional placement of sound elements, but it is still very effective in providing an envelopmental environment of creaks and groans in general - this is quite often a neglected part of a soundtrack where mood is actually more paramount than the direct impression of obviousness. The subwoofer is in the same boat (pun intended) for when supportive undertones are required, however it will also remind you of its full potential when the inevitable explosions kick in.

And on a final note, the music gratefully reflects the time period being exhibited which is a nice change from the use of techno or modern music in general to try and appeal to the younger market. I understand though that the flashback sequences use a contemporary Marlyn Manson-esque composition, but this is still within the context of a person from the modern era actually experiencing an event back in time.

Extras
This is what I term another of the "Joel Silver Special" DVDs which is again a nicely presented group of supplemental material, although we could have done without one particularly confusing menu system here. All of these productions are exhibited in a 4:3 NTSC->PAL transfer apart from the 16:9-enhanced music video. I strongly advise against watching any of the extras until you've seen the movie first.

The Cast & Crew biographies this time are not the usual one-page wonder summary screens that Warner Bros are most (in)famous for creating - it actually goes further than this by providing each film contributor with an extremely brief listing of their past film credits on (you guessed it) one page each.

There's an imaginitively titled Documentary (15 mins) for the movie which is a good but all-too-short EPK overview of all the different techniques of filmmaking that were used to create this movie - ranging from traditional models and on-the-set effects right up to the CGI-enhancements of certain sequences that would otherwise have been impossible to achieve purely with real-for-reel methodologies alone.

Ghost Ship
The Secrets Of The Antonia Grazia (6 mins) is a series of four short stories based around the events of the ill-fated cruiseliner. This is very similar in vein to the ones exhibited on the Thir13en Ghosts DVD (again from Joel Silver & Co) in which the various backstories help to expand upon the environment that these people inhabit. However, to navigate the menu system here is an excercise in frustration unless you know the <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=7&c=178&g> easter egg</a> sequence of icons to select ... there seems to be no logical "code" that you can break here so ultimately the novelty value wears thin very quickly.

The Visual FX Featurette (6 mins) neatly covers how the different perspective shots of the Antonia Grazia were achieved using various scale models and even full size stand-in ships in the ocean waters with CGI to finally fill in the gaps. It also briefly touches upon the interior and otherwordly effects as well.

A Closer Look At The Gore (5 mins) is just that - an in-depth showcase into the minds of these sickened individuals who devised and executed (there's that pun again) the signature sequences of this film - namely the despatchment by decapitation of the sea-going passengers and other such gruesome exhibitions of human carnology. But when you realise that these guys (JMB & KMB) are part of the same group who were involved in the Evil Dead Trilogy, then you will eventually forgive their shortcomings in taste as you fondly reminisce back to their humble beginnings with the equally demented Sam Raimi.

Designing The Ghost Ship (6 mins) is an interesting look at the logistics involved in providing the look of the major areas within the Antonia Grazia. Still using the age old method of cheap plywood sets, it's amazing what Hollywood can achieve on such a modest budget to not only exhibit the appearance of expensive extravagance but also that of half a century's worth of deterioration in the same locations.

The Music Video: Not Falling (6 mins) by heavy metal group Mudvayne only shows clips from the movie and nothing of the band itself, but surely the musicians wouldn't have been nearly as offensive looking as the footage that you see here. This is the song that plays whilst Australia's Alex Dimitriatis is steering their boat towards its unseen big brother as well as against the end credits of this movie. Also, the clips shown tend to throw in a few spoilers so avoid it like the devil (the pun-meister strikes again!).

Ghost Ship
Finally, there is the Theatrical Trailer which somehow doesn't spoil as much as it looks like it should.

Summary
It's not the most inspiring of plots, but Ghost Ship still has some redeeming features of its own that may warrant a space in your DVD collection, if only in the segment labelled the "guilty pleasure zone". Even when the mystery itself has been solved first time around, it's still a pleasure to unravel the layers every so often when you want a good mix of visuals, aural excitement and storyline.

The gore quotient alone may be enough to put you off this movie, but these scenes should want to have more of an effect on the viewer since this macarbe display is so reaching on a personal level ... you are witness to the full brutality of other people's demise which makes you feel like you're the one involved, rather than being a distant spectator at a gladiatorial event like in your typical Die Hard style of movie.

This film is a slick combination of the predictable systematic disposal of key characters along with a pretty decent story to boot, so give this DVD a try if nothing else seems to satisfy you so far.


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