Director: Steve Beck
So, I remembered this movie being better than I expected when I watched it back in the mid-00's. Watching it in 2023, it is as bad as I first suspected when the trailers hit.
It has a few highlights - the opening is a banger if you can tolerate some gorey gore. There's some interesting set design, and the overall concept of a haunted ship (on sea or in space) is a good one. I like haunted house movies, and what is a cruise liner if not a floating resort?
But the movie is essentially a cliche-fest, borrowing from better films and engaging in the goofiest of 1990's ragtag, blue-collar, post-Abyss team dynamics that just absolutely throttled movies by the 00's from Deep Blue Sea to Name-Your-Film. We get bits of The Shining, we get bits of just general ghosty-stuff you're like to see in any spook movie new or old, but now with CG! Which was all producers thought we cared about in 2002 (spoiler: it absolutely was not).
What's weird about this movie is that it's never scary. Beyond that, I'm not sure there's really ever any tension. It's so by-the-numbers that you'd literally have to be a kid who hasn't seen anything to get anything novel out of it. So then you're left with execution. And - it's... again, by-the-numbers in a way that at the time we were told was being done for sale to foreign markets. Which.... (a) cool for them, but I am also your audience, and (b) I don't know if you've ever seen an Asian film or a European film, but "complicated" is not something they have any trouble wrangling, so why these movies get reduced to people shouting last names at each other and commenting on "tiddies" is beyond me.
The cast on this movie was kind of no-joke at the time. Gabriel Byrne, an up-and-coming Julianna Marguiles (her magnificent hair reduced here for blue-collar action heroism). We have a rising Isaiah Washington, Karl Urban and Ron Eldard. Less well known, Alex Dimitriades, Desmond Harrington and our token ghost-girl, Katie, played by Emily Browning.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention torch singer Francesca Rettondini, who plays a ghostly chanteuse. While noteworthy for general foxiness, Rettondini would, in 2012, go on to become a television host, and in that capacity would be aboard the Costa Concordia when it ran into rocks, capsizing to become one of the larger scale boat disasters in Europe on this century. No, Rettondini does not find the irony amusing.
A few items of note: Apparently these people all believed they were in a very different movie about people trapped on a ship who slowly go mad thanks to ghosts, but when they showed up, they found out that the script had been re-written to make it what we see on screen. Which absolutely feels like a second draft generated by a Script-o-Tron 2000 running on Windows 98.
Also - the movie was directed by a gentleman who had directed just one prior film, and this would be his final bow as a director of features before heading into commercials, which has apparently treated him well. But it does make you wonder how much the very big name producers (Joel Silver, Zemeckis, etc...) decided to just push this guy around as a young gun-for-hire, which was a standard power move in the 90's.
Anyway, the movie decides that in the third act it needs to have a plot, and that plot is clunky, dumb and even a little confusing. We are forced to learn that there was some heist of gold? A second boat? Armed bandits? a quadruple cross? I don't know and I don't care. It's dumb and unnecessary. Ghost stories don't need concrete origin stories. Especially when they get tossed out in favor of "actually, demon magic" immediately after.
Horror is hard, y'all. It really is. And I know people love this movie, and I gave it a pass for something like 17 years since I last saw it, but. Nope. It's just a product of the time in so many ways, and really has nothing new to offer that doesn't happen in the first five minutes.