Please don’t book passage on this ‘Ghost Ship’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2002

I stormed out of the Harbor View movie theater after nearly hurling my drink at the screen of &uot;Ghost Ship.&uot; Now, as I write this review, my regret is that I can’t use certain four-letter words to describe it.

Let me explain because I intend to save you from a similar fate of wasting two hours.

The plot revolves around a small crew of sea salvagers. Back from their latest prowl, they are confronted by a mysterious stranger who claims to know of an ocean liner that was first reported missing in the 1960s. The &uot;Antonio Graza&uot; is rumored to have disappeared with boxes of gold on board – and it might just still be afloat near Alaska.

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The crew, led by Captain Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne, whose accent changes from Irish to Australian to American at various points in the film) and his assistant Maureen Epps (Julianna Margulies, whom we’re still waiting to show all that potential she displayed on &uot;ER&uot;), heads out, only to discover that some of the passengers on board are still around – and they’re looking for some new company.

Eventually, the ghosts show up, most notably a young girl named Katie (Emily Browning, who steals every scene she’s in). Browning tries to warn Epps of the ship’s dangers, but something (referred to only as &uot;him&uot; for now) won’t let her. As her crewmates start to meet their untimely ends in the goriest of ways, Epps tries to solve the mystery and get herself back to safety.

Three of the crew are left: Epps, the stranger, and the blonde-haired Dodge (Ron Eldard, who hasn’t done anything of note to this point). Katie has finally confided in Epps, and agrees to reveal the secrets of the Antonio.

Set to the tunes of blaring rock music (which actually creates a fun atmosphere), we see thousands of people dismembered with wire. The cooks pour rat poison into the passengers’ soup. Katie herself is slashed with a straight razor.

Then we find out why: a small group of people has discovered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold on the ship, and figured that the only way to escape with it was to kill everyone else.

Then, at long last, the film comes full circle; we find that the leader of the mob (and only survivor of the massacre) was none other than the one that originally convinced the crew to visit the Antonio.

Trying to conceal her secret, Epps convinces Dodge to watch the unsuspecting stranger while she rigs the bottom of the boat with enough explosives to sink it. Soon, the stranger realizes that she’s on to him, kills Dodge, and tries to drown Epps.

While underwater, she finds a spear gun, and shoots him in the leg (yes, a ghost that can be affected by a spear gun in a movie). She then stands up and shoots the bomb trigger, blowing him and the ship to smithereens.

As Epps swims away, Katie shows her a way out, and then, wearing a smile for the first time, disappears. While Epps makes her way to the surface, we can see all of the ship’s lost souls (including the bad guys) swimming behind her, on their way to a better place. If we hadn’t been watching a horror film for the past 90 minutes, it might have brought tears to our eyes.

Epps is picked up by an ocean liner (oh, the irony), and is brought back to solid ground, lying in the back of an ambulance.

Then we see it. We see the biggest insult to our intelligence that a film has ever attempted. We see a sequence that takes the entire first 99 percent of the film and turns it into meaningless trash.

As Epps peeks out of the ambulance, several men in familiar outfits walk past her, carrying boxes resembling those on the boat. Then, behind the men, comes the leader of the pack: the stranger himself. Somehow, he escaped from the boat, and won anyway. He casts an evil look at the screaming Epps, and the credits roll.

Why is all this so insulting? First, if he and his compadres already had the gold, then why take the crew out there to begin with? Second, we just saw this guy get blown to bits, and now he’s back together? If the spear gun affected him, wouldn’t the bomb have done just a bit more damage&uot;

Confused yet? Wait a second, we’re not through.

We just saw Epps blow the ship in half, which would have obviously either turned the gold into small nuggets or sent it to a watery grave. So how did it get back into the boxes for the men to carry? Again, if the whole point of the film was to establish that the gold itself existed, then it had absolutely no business being made.

Finally, what about all the souls that were trapped on the ship, and we saw fly to a higher spot? How did they escape if the guy that was keeping them there survive? Does the fact that he’s still alive mean that they all have to go back and hang out underwater for an eternity?

Are you totally lost? Good. Now you know how I feel, and I hope you don’t want to feel this way after seeing the film.

Bottom line, this is garbage. If you absolutely desire to see &uot;Ghost Ship,&uot; I’ve got a better idea: just send me your money – I’ll put it to good use!

Jason Norman is the sports editor of the Suffolk News-Herald.