Ghost Ship  (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

A bunch of people died long ago in a haunt of the very rich. That location is separated from the rest of the world, isolated, and thus the perfect setting for some unsuspecting people in the present to come into contact with the ghosts of those who died back then.

Is it Stanley Kubrick's The Shining? I wish. Instead, it is The Shining at Sea, better known as Ghost Ship. The Overlook Hotel is now a floating hotel, a luxurious Italian liner which disappeared in 1963 without a trace. We know a little bit about what happened on its last night with a living crew, because we see a particularly macabre shipboard incident in the opening scene.

In fact, that kicked the movie off pretty well, and the set-up of the film is spooky, as we follow a tiny salvage tug chugging through the Bering Sea, looking for a ship which may or may not be there. Since it is so close to the Pole, both ships are trapped in kind of a perpetual night. Throw in some stormy seas and some squeaky riggings, and you have a pretty good setting for a campfire story.


Francesca Rettondini, as the ghost of a lounge singer, shows her breasts and butt in a clear, but dark scene

As is typical with this type of film, the plot can work with three mysteries simultaneously:

(1) what will happen to the crew of the salvage ship?

(2) what really happened that night the liner disappeared?

(3) does the mysterious pilot who brought the liner to the attention of the salvage crew know more than he is telling?

That clay had potential, and the film got a really good head of steam going in the first 20 minutes or so. Then it sort of forgot to be scary. It ended up as a Grade-B film in a Grade-A package. The crew starts chit-chatting with the ghosts, then some of the ghosts are afraid to talk to the living because they are afraid of other ghosts, and the whole thing gets to the point where it needs the "too silly" guy from Monty Python to break up the skit.

None of the characters really give us someone to latch onto and pull for, ala Ripley in Alien. The crew of the salvage boat has several throw-away members, ala the red shirt crew members on Star Trek, and they may as well have names like Ian Doomed. There wasn't that much dramatic suspense in the plot, they didn't fully exploit the potential of the three basic mystery sources listed above, and there weren't even that many fun "gotcha" moments.

And the ending was filled with loud obnoxious, strident, irritating music and other discordant noises.

 ... and Julianna Margulies floating around in the Bering Sea until a liner found her.

Even if we discount the improbabilty of someone being found while floating through the open sea, I wonder how long a human can last in the Bering Sea before succumbing to hypothermia.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1. Excellent transfer.

  • documentaries: on location, F/X, gore

They had quite a bit of solid raw material, and the first 15-20 minutes are absolutely excellent, but for my money they didn't develop many scares or a worthwhile mystery out of it.


Ghost Ship (2002) is almost a good film. It is a typical haunted house plot, transplanted to a derelict ocean liner, and a salvage crew out to get rich. The opening scene is very effective, and the ship setting makes for stylish ambiance, but the salvage crew needed more chemistry. The way they interacted, we wonder how they managed to live for so long together on a small tug. While the scares were few and far between, there was some doubt about who would survive. This did hold my interest to the end, but a much better picture could have been made.

Francesca Rettondini, as a ghost, shows breasts and buns luring one of the salvage crew to his death. IMDB readers have it at 5.5 of 10. Ebert, 2 1/2, Berardinelli 2, and Rotten Tomatoes 12%.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Apollo 59/100, 2.5/5.

  • General UK consensus, one and a half stars. BBC 2/5, Daily Telegraph 3/10, Independent 4/10,  The Guardian 4/10, The Times 4/10, The Express 4/10

  • 26/100. More telling than the 26 is the fact that not one critic gave it more than 6/10. Nobody really liked it.

  • average grade: C-, but again, nobody liked it. highest score was C+.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It grossed $30 million in the USA. Production costs $20 million, marketing costs about the same.
  • The exit interviews from CinemaScore were not bad. It scored B's from people under 21, C+ from others.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "it's a C-. Big budget ghost story. Good production values and a rich premise, but not enough scares. Will be satisfying to people who just can't get enough ghost stories, but doesn't have much to bring in a crossover crowd. I loved the first 20 minutes a lot, but it didn't deliver the goods." Tuna says, "Had they put as much work into the characters as they did into the set, it would have been much better. C-."

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