Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Ghost Ship

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Ah, the briny deep. Such beautifully filthy green murk. Such ominously muted sounds. Such snore-inducing retread-of-retread-of-retread storylines.

Let me be up-front. I am firmly of the opinion that it’s no longer possible to make an entertaining, let alone original, submarine movie. The last two years have been particularly bad, with the plotless U-571 and the moribund K-19: The Widowmaker wasting an ocean’s worth of budget on crummy scripts. The most recent Bond movie, like so many Bond movies before it, couldn’t resist the siren call of the submarine set. Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October were a lifetime ago.

So what made the producers of Below think that they could combine two tired genres — submarine and horror — into a sum better than its parts? We may never know, which is probably not such a bad thing. The only thing really necessary to know about Below is that it takes place on a haunted American sub whose captain is actually referred to at one point as "old man Winters." Unfortunately, Scooby and the gang fail to show up and rescue this unintentionally comic exercise from its own pathetic devices.

In direct competition with Below is Ghost Ship, another watery scare flick. The boat in question, much to my dismay, is not a sub but an ocean liner stranded in the Bering Sea that disappeared without a trace in 1962. Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) and his salty crew of vessel salvers are led to the hulking rust bucket by pilot Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), who’s a little too eager to share his discovery with people he doesn’t even know. But Murph shakes this off, and they board the ship dreaming of riches — and spend the rest of the film uncovering how and why it vanished four decades earlier.

Ghost Ship, though no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, is a vastly better film than Below, both in pacing and thrills. Its best moments are its opening ones, which feature an excellent scene of mass murder in which dozens of people are halved by a wire cable slicing through their stunned bodies. There’s a reprise of this ingenious death waltz later in the movie, which is enough to make me wish the remainder of the movie were half as inventive.

But this proves to be but a brief vacation from the dull fact of the movie’s very existence, which is that it is a submarine movie in cruise ship’s clothing. The worst crime of the sub-movie genre is that each of these recent films fails to generate sufficient fear by way of claustrophobia; ships, and the silent service in particular, are floating enclosed spaces, and suspense should be easy. Yet they fail to live up to low expectations time and again.

How long until Hollywood yells "down periscope!" for the final time?

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Erin Podolsky

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 8, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation