- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

I am grateful to "Ghost Ship" for demonstrating how difficult it is to put the plots of "Aliens," "Titanic" and "Casper" into a blender and come out with something melodramatically coherent or appetizing.
Julianna Margulies gets to play the equivalent of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley of "Aliens." Named Epps, she's the fetching ramrod of a salvage tugboat called the Arctic Warrior, lured into the Bering Sea by the report of an aviator with a very suspicious name, Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington, a promising sinister presence and a cross of Christopher Walken with Charles Grodin), who has glimpsed a huge mystery ship adrift in frigid waters.
Nothing if not intrepid, Epps and her buddies captain Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), first mate Greer (Isaiah Washington), mechanic Santos (Alex Dimitriades) and diver-welders Dodge (Ron Eldard) and Munder (Karl Urban) take up the challenge, with Ferriman along as a mild-mannered bad-luck charm.
On a dark and stormy night, the Warrior bumps into a hulking passenger liner, the Antonia Graza, lost without a trace 40 years earlier in waters much closer to Labrador. Boarding the derelict, the crew of the Warrior finds bare, ruined interiors but no sign of survivors. Well, not until an excursion into the hold reveals a batch of rats, which scurry away from boxes that contain an inestimable fortune in gold bars.
Just as this salvage project is looking like the keeper of a lifetime, spirits begin to rise from the cavernous coffin of the Antonia Graza. Mama mia, are they restless and malign with the exception of a little girl phantom named Katie (Emily Browning). She takes an immediate orphaned liking to Epps and eventually reveals all the ship's tribulations in gruesome flashback detail.
Not trusting to this climactic whirlwind of calamities old and new, the filmmakers begin their story with a teaser atrocity sequence set on the ship during a night of supernatural terror that emphasizes the slicing in half of passengers and crew members. For example, Katie has been asked to dance by the captain and keeps clinging to his torso while his head slips off.
It's fair to say that this ruthless streak gets out of hand so much so that the filmmakers don't have enough characters or slaughters to sustain 90 minutes of gratuitous dread and butchery.
It wouldn't surprise me to learn that an alternative fadeout will replace the current one, a highly unsatisfactory kiss-off, in the DVD retrofit. We might expect that in January or February because chances are good that this nautical horror thriller will spring a fast leak at the box office.

"Ghost Ship"
R (Sustained ominous atmosphere and set-piece episodes of graphic violence, with gruesome illustrative details; occasional profanity; fleeting nudity and sexual allusions)
Directed by Steve Beck. Screenplay by Mark Hanlon and John Pogue.
85 minutes

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