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Ghost Ship is a 2002 American-Australian horror film directed by Steve Beck, and starring an ensemble cast featuring Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington and Karl Urban. The film follows a marine salvage crew in the Bering Sea who discover a mysterious ocean liner that disappeared in 1962.

Ghost Ship
A front view of a ship with a ghostly skull superimpose on the hull
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteve Beck
Produced byJoel Silver
Robert Zemeckis
Susan Levin
Written byMark Hanlon
John Pogue
StarringGabriel Byrne
Julianna Margulies
Ron Eldard
Desmond Harrington
Isaiah Washington
Karl Urban
Music byJohn Frizzell
CinematographyGale Tattersall
Edited byRoger Barton
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • October 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)
Running time
90 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$68.3 million[2]

The film was shot in Queensland, Australia and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and released theatrically in North America on October 25, 2002. It earned an excess of $68 million in box office receipts worldwide. In 2016, the media website ComingSoon named the film's opening scene one of the greatest in horror film history.[3]

Despite its title, the film is unrelated to the 1952 film Ghost Ship.



In May 1962, aboard the Italian ocean liner SS Antonia Graza, dozens of wealthy passengers dance to the song "Senza Fine" sung by Francesca, an Italian lounge singer. A young girl, Katie Harwood, sits alone until the ship's captain offers to dance with her on the exterior dance floor. Elsewhere, a hand presses a lever that unravels a thin wire cord from a spool. The spool snaps and the wire whips across the dance floor, bisecting the passengers and crew. Katie is spared due to her height and the captain leaning protectively over her, who is himself killed along with everyone else present as she screams in horror.

Forty years later, at a bar, a salvage crew — Captain Sean Murphy, Maureen Epps, Greer, Dodge, Munder, and Santos — celebrate their recent success. Jack Ferriman, a Canadian weather service pilot, approaches them and says he spotted a vessel adrift in the Bering Sea. Because the ship is in international waters, it can be claimed by whoever brings it to port. The crew sets out on the Arctic Warrior, an ocean salvage tugboat. The ship is the Antonia Graza, which was believed to be lost at sea, similar to the Mary Celeste. As they prepare to tow it, they discover it contains a large quantity of gold. After a series of supernatural events, the group decides to abandon the salvage effort but take the gold, but an invisible force sabotages the Arctic Warrior. The tugboat explodes as its engine is restarted, killing Santos.

Left with no other option, the group begins repairing the Antonia Graza. Greer encounters Francesca, who seduces him into betraying the fiancée he has ashore, then leads him off an elevator shaft to his death. Captain Murphy enters the captain's cabin and finds his ghost. The captain explains that they recovered the gold from a sinking cruise ship, the Lorelei, along with a sole survivor. Murphy is shown a picture of the survivor, whom he recognizes. He rushes to tell the others, but begins hallucinating and sees everyone as the ghost of the burned Santos, who provokes him into a murderous rage. The others think Murphy has gone mad and lock him in the drained fish tank, where Epps later finds him drowned.

Epps meets Katie's ghost, who reveals what happened on the Graza. The sole survivor of the Lorelei convinced the Graza's crew to murder the passengers for the gold. Once the passengers were killed, the crew turned on one another; soon, only a single officer was left, but he was later killed by Francesca. Another man, the mastermind behind the massacre, then killed Francesca by mystical means and branded her palm with a hook-shaped symbol using only his hands. The man is revealed as Jack Ferriman, who is actually a demonic spirit. Epps deduces that Ferriman lured the salvage team to the Graza to repair it, and decides to sink it to thwart his plan. While Munder is crushed under the ship's gears while scuba diving in a flooded area, Epps tells Dodge to keep Jack on the ship's bridge while she secretly sets explosives. When Ferriman realizes that Dodge is on to his secret, he walks towards Dodge while insulting him for not being man enough to act upon his feelings for Epps. Dodge threatens to shoot Ferriman, who simply smiles and says that murderers go to hell. Dodge shoots and Ferriman is seemingly killed.

Epps is below decks setting explosives when she is confronted by Dodge. He tells her he has killed Ferriman and that they can salvage the gold to start a life together, but Epps is made suspicious by this unexpected romantic proposal and Dodge's apparent knowledge of the deaths of the rest of the crew despite not being told of them. Realizing that his ruse has failed, "Dodge" morphs into Jack Ferriman, who has killed the real Dodge. Ferriman describes himself as a salvager of souls, a job he earned by a lifetime of sin. He plans to use the Antonia Graza and the gold as a trap to continue collecting souls. Only the souls of sinners can be readily controlled, through the mark he brands them with, and as long as the Graza is kept afloat the soul of everyone who has died aboard the ship will be dragged down when Ferriman has filled his quota and returns to Hell, something which will please the "management". He offers to spare Epps's life in exchange for her not interfering but she detonates the explosives. Ferriman is blown to pieces in the explosion and Katie helps Epps escape the sinking ship. Katie wordlessly bids farewell to Epps before she and the other unmarked souls trapped on the ship ascend to Heaven through the Northern Lights.

Drifting on the open sea, Epps is found by a cruise ship and returned to land. As she is loaded into an ambulance, she sees the battered crates of gold being loaded onto the cruise ship by the ships crewmen, overseen by Ferriman, who glares at her and carries on; she screams as the ambulance doors close.



Ghost Ship first emerged in January 1996 as Chimera, a spec script by Mark Hanlon.[4] This script was a relatively bloodless psychological thriller rather than a vivid supernatural horror film. Most notably, much of the film's gore is absent from the screenplay. The film would have focused on four members of a salvage crew who end up stranded aboard the ghost vessel they are scuttling (the titular Chimera); over the course of one night, each member — due to panic, cabin fever, or supernatural forces — goes insane and plots to kill the other three.

In Chimera,[4] Murphy is the "main killer" and the ship runs onto some rocks and begins to sink. Murphy and Epps survive until nearly the end but as the ship sinks, Murphy goes off to retrieve gold ingots. The weight of the gold and the time he loses in getting it led to Murphy's demise. As in the film, Katie helps Epps escape. Over time, the script underwent rewrites, and the psychological aspects of the script were all jettisoned in favor of making the film a slasher. It has been suggested that "The cast signed on based on this (original) draft ... and were sadly disappointed to find the script had been radically changed by Joel Silver and associates when they arrived to begin shooting."[5]

The film's ship, the Antonia Graza was visually based on the Andrea Doria, and is a close replica according to what is mentioned in the special feature clips on the film's DVD release.

The theatrical poster for Ghost Ship is similar to that of the 1980 film Death Ship.[6][7]


Box officeEdit

With a reported budget of $20 million, the film opened at no. 3 at the box office with a little more than $11,503,423 in ticket sales as Jackass: The Movie dominated the cinema releases. The film grossed $30,113,491 in North America and had an international gross of $38,236,393, earning a total of $68,349,884.[2]

Critical response Edit

According to internet review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Ghost Ship has a 15% approval rating based on 125 reviews. The consensus states that "With a plot as creaky as the boat, Ghost Ship fails to deliver the scares".[8] Similarly, Metacritic gives the film a score of 28/100 based on 25 reviews and rates the film as "generally unfavorable".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[10]

The film received varied critical reception in the United States: The New York Times's Stephen Holden criticized its preoccupation with special effects, and while praising its establishment of mood, ultimately deemed it "an incoherent supernatural thriller that would like to think of itself as a Halloween-ready horror fusion of The Perfect Storm and Titanic.[11] Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle praised the performance of Isaiah Washington, but deemed the film "a stupid, derivative horror film that substitutes extreme gore for suspense. Granted, there are only so many ways to kill people in these pictures, but lingering on a woman on a meat hook doesn't make a movie scary. It makes it gross."[12]

Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times was critical of the script's lack of character development, writing: "With its minor shivers and modest Grand Guignol showmanship, Ghost Ship is the sort of flimflam that would have filled eight paneled pages in the great horror comic book Tales From the Crypt or consumed about 30 minutes on the latter-day HBO spinoff."[13] Roger Ebert said the film is "better than you expect but not as good as you hope,"[14] while Joel Siegel of Good Morning America awarded the film a B- rating, writing: "After a very brutal and bloody beginning, Ghost Ship plays like an old-fashioned ghost story, the kind that kept you awake when you were a kid."[15] In a review published by IGN, the reviewer awarded the film one-and-a-half out of five stars, stating: "as a horror fan, I applaud what Silver and Zemeckis are trying to do with Dark Castle, Ghost Ship just isn't a cruise worth taking."[16]

Upon the film's release in the United Kingdom in January 2003, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw praised its set design, but added "it's the same old tired stuff we've seen a hundred times before in various permutations."[17] Jamie Russell of the BBC awarded the film two out of five stars, but praised its opening sequence.[18]

While critical response to Ghost Ship was varied upon its theatrical release, many contemporary critics and film fans alike praised its elaborate opening murder sequence.[19][20][18] Website Bloody Disgusting listed Ghost Ship's opening massacre as #13 in their list of "The Top 13 Kills in Horror Movie History,"[21] while ComingSoon named the scene one of the greatest opening sequences in horror film history.[3]


Ghost Ship Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
ReleasedNovember 5, 2002
Film score
LabelVarèse Sarabande

A soundtrack, including original music composed by John Frizzell, was released on the Varèse Sarabande label on 5 November 2002.[22] The song "Not Falling" by Mudvayne is featured in the movie. Though not included in the official soundtrack, "Senza Fine" is sung in the film by Monica Mancini.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "GHOST SHIP (18)". Warner Bros. British Board of Film Classification. November 8, 2002. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Ghost Ship (2002) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Alexander, Chris (January 14, 2016). "The Greatest Opening Scenes in Horror History: Ghost Ship". ComingSoon. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Ghost Ship - by Mark Hanlon - First Draft". January 29, 1953. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  5. ^ First draft screenplay of "Ghost Ship" (formerly "Chimera" ).
  6. ^ Waddel, Calum (2009). Jack Hill: The Exploitation and Blaxploitation Master, Film by Film. McFarland & Company. p. 186. ISBN 9780786452880. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  7. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2011). Horror Films of the 1980s, Volume 1. McFarland & Company. p. 82. ISBN 9780786455010. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  8. ^ "Ghost Ship - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  9. ^ "Ghost Ship Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  10. ^ "CinemaScore".
  11. ^ Holden, Stephen (October 25, 2002). "FILM IN REVIEW; 'Ghost Ship'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  12. ^ Meyer, Carla (October 25, 2002). "FILM CLIPS / Also opening today". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla (October 25, 2002). "In 'Ghost Ship,' gore mixes with seawater". Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  14. ^ "Ghost Ship - by Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Siegel, Joel (October 25, 2002). "Joel Siegel Reviews New Movies". Good Morning America. ABC News. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Linder, Brian (October 25, 2002). "This Weekend at the Movies: Ghost of a Chance". IGN. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  17. ^ Bradshaw, Peter. "Ghost Ship". The Guardian. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  18. ^ a b Russell, Jamie (January 19, 2003). "Review - Ghost Ship". BBC. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  19. ^ Don Sumner (August 14, 2012). "Ghost Ship (2002) Review". Retrieved November 21, 2015. … plus it has one of the greatest opening scenes in horror.
  20. ^ "Sunday Bloody Sunday: Opening Scene From 'Ghost Ship' (2002)". September 15, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2015. … I was in definite "Holy Shit!" mode after seeing the opening scene. It was jaw-dropping indeed, but then after it, …
  21. ^ "The Top 13 Kills in Horror Movie History!". Bloody Disgusting. November 14, 2004.
  22. ^ "Ghost Ship Soundtrack (complete album tracklisting)". SoundtrackINFO. 5 November 2002. Retrieved 24 September 2011.

External linksEdit