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Ghost Ship

A promotional film poster for Ghost Ship; based on the poster for Death Ship.
Directed by Steve Beck
Produced by Joel Silver
Gilbert Adler
Robert Zemeckis
Written by Story:
Mark Hanlon
Mark Hanlon
John Pogue
Starring Gabriel Byrne
Julianna Margulies
Desmond Harrington
Isiah Washington
Ron Eldard
Karl Urban
Emily Browning
Music by John Frizzell
Cinematography Gale Tattersall
Editing by Roger Barton
Studio Village Roadshow Pictures
Dark Castle Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) October 25, 2002 (USA)
Running time 91 min
Language English
Budget $35,000,000 [est.]
Gross revenue $68,349,884

Ghost Ship (2002) is a horror film directed by Steve Beck. The fictional ship Antonia Graza featured in the movie is based on a real life Italian ocean liner, the SS Andrea Doria, which sank in 1956 after colliding with the MS Stockholm near Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA.[1] This was shot in Queensland, Australia and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It stars Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, and Emily Browning.



The film opens aboard an Italian ocean liner, Antonia Graza, in May 1962. Dozens of wealthy passengers enjoy dancing in the ship's luxurious ballroom while a beautiful Italian woman (Francesca Rettondini) sings "Senza Fine." Galley crew wheel carts of soup around as stewards carry trays of champagne and wine. On the bow deck, more passengers dance on a platform surrounded by a cable attached to a mast. Away from the party in an outer room, a gloved hand pulls a switch that causes a spool to reel in a thin wire cable at high speed.

Suddenly, the cable runs out and is detached from the mast. The cable slices across the deck (dance floor) like a blade, cutting through the crowd of dancing passengers. They stand still for several seconds before grasping that they have been cut in half, and then begin to fall apart. Only little Katie (Emily Browning), who had been dancing with the ship's Captain, is spared, thanks to her small stature and to the captain leaning down to protect her when he saw the wire snap. Seeing the fate of the other dancers, she looks up at the officer's face. He looks back at her sorrowfully, as his face splits open at mouth level and the top of his head falls off. Katie then screams, the view from the outside of the ship zooms down underwater, and the film cuts to the present day.

A salvage crew made up of Captain Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) Maureen Epps (Julianna Margulies), Greer (Isaiah Washington), Dodge (Ron Eldard), Munder (Karl Urban), and Santos (Alex Dimitriades), have retrieved a sinking ship in the open ocean. They bring the ship into port and receive its salvage value from the authorities. While celebrating their success at a bar, Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), a Canadian Air Force pilot, approaches them and says he has spotted a mysterious vessel running adrift in the Bering Sea. Because the ship is in international waters, it can be claimed by whoever is able to bring it to a port. The crew soon set out on the Arctic Warrior, a small tugboat. While exploring the abandoned ship, they discover that it is the Antonia Graza, an Italian luxury liner that disappeared in May 1962 and was believed to be lost at sea. The ocean liner's disappearance was well known at the time.

When they board the ship and prepare to tow it to shore, strange things begin to happen. Epps claims to have seen a little girl on the stairwell while trying to save Munder from falling through the floor, Greer claims to have heard singing in various places on the ship, and Epps and Ferriman discover the corpses of another team of salvagers in the ship's laundry room. The crew decides to leave the ship but also to take a large quantity of gold in the ship's hold. Before they can escape, however, their tugboat explodes when a propane tank mysteriously explodes as the engine is started, which also kills Santos, who was on board trying to fix the boat. The rest are stuck on a ghost ship in the middle of the Bering Sea with no form of communication.

When they decide to attempt to fix the Antonia Graza and sail it back to shore, they all experience hauntings. Epps finds a child's skeleton hanging by a noose in a wardrobe, and Dodge and Munder find (and accidentally eat) maggots in ration cans they initially mistook for rice and beans. Meanwhile, Greer meets the beautiful Italian singer who seduces him; however, when he tries to touch her, she disappears, and Greer falls down a shaft and is impaled on tools and equipment. Epps meets the ghost of Katie who was on her way to New York to be with her parents, who tries to tell Epps the secret of the ship but is attacked by an unseen force and vanishes. Epps runs and finds Murphy who has been drinking with the ghost Captain. Murphy sees a disfigured Santos instead of Epps and attacks her thinking she is a ghost. Before he can harm Epps, he is knocked out by Ferriman. Munder, Dodge and Ferriman dump Murphy into a aquarium while they try to find Greer. Despite the loss of Murphy and Greer, however, the team does manage to get the boat running again enough for it to start sailing.

Epps with Katie's help finds Greer's body and Katie then takes her momentarily back to the past where Epps finally sees what had happened. While the numerous dancers were sliced by the wire, the chefs in the kitchen were murdered by the crew who began pouring rodent poison into the evening's food. The food was served, and the diners began to succumb to the poison, plagued by severe nausea and dizziness. The crew then began taking the lives of the rest of the passengers by lining them by the pool and shooting them (young Katie was hung in the closet). As the crew takes the gold for themselves, one crew member (an officer) walks out of the small compartment where the valuables are stored. He takes a look at Francesca, the ship's sultry ballroom singer, who is also standing there dressed in a shimmering red satin strapless ballgown, turns around, and viciously murders his fellow crewmates out of greed with a submachine gun. Francesca then shoots him in the head with a pistol. At last, a man walks up to Francesca and they embrace. As he walks away, the singer looks up and sees a large hook swing into her face, killing her. The man burns a mark into her hand, and it is revealed that he, the mastermind of the attack, was Jack Ferriman. Ferriman, as it turns out, is an evil spirit.

Realizing the danger they are all in, Epps tries to get Murphy out of the aquarium only to find that it is already filled to the brim and Murphy has drowned. Epps finds Dodge and tells him what she found out just as Ferriman comes back. Epps tells them to not let each other out of the others sight. She goes to find Munder, who unfortunately had already been killed when the gears in the ship started up and he was trying to fix them and he was ground into them.

Back on the deck Ferriman says he wants to go check on Epps. When Dodge refuses to let him, Ferriman mocks how he worships Epps, and warns Dodge that killing a man would send him to hell. Ferriman attacks Dodge who shoots him anyway. Knowing everything now, Epps decides to blow up the ship, but is confronted by Dodge. When Dodge begins to try to talk Epps out of blowing up the ship, she realizes that it is really Ferriman who has killed Dodge and disguised himself as him. He states the obvious - by using the gold as bait, he has taken multitudes of souls to his masters (presumably Satan); he has been doing this for a long time, and considers himself a "salvager" of souls. A ferryman of souls, hence the name Ferriman. He guided the salvagers there merely to effect repairs. They fight for a short amount of time before Epps manages to blow up the ship, "killing" Ferriman. She is left in the debris as the souls trapped on the ship ascend to heaven. Katie stops to thank her and leads her out of the sinking ship.

Epps is discovered by a large cruise ship and taken back to land. The last scene shows Epps in the back of an ambulance at the docks. She looks out the back of the vehicle from her stretcher and sees the battered crates of gold being loaded onto the cruise ship by her deceased crew, followed moments later by Ferriman. Realizing what is about to happen she screams, only to be silenced by the closing ambulance doors.


The film began life as a spec script called Chimera by Mark Hanlon[2]. Originally, the film, as written, was a relatively bloodless psychological thriller as opposed to a more blatantly supernaturally themed movie. Most notably, much of the film's gore is absent from the screenplay. The film would have focused on four salvage crew members who end up stranded aboard the ghost vessel they are scuttling (the titular Chimera); over the course of one night, each member - whether it be from panic, cabin fever, or supernatural forces - goes insane and plots to kill the other three members of the crew.

In [2] Murphy is the "main killer" and the ship sinks as it runs on the rocks. Murphy and Epps survive till the end but while the ship is sinking Murphy runs to take gold ingots. The weight and also the lost time bring death to Murphy. Like in the final version, Katie helps Epps to 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."[3]


Actor Role
Julianna Margulies Maureen Epps
Ron Eldard Dodge
Desmond Harrington Jack Ferriman
Isaiah Washington Greer
Alex Dimitriades Santos
Karl Urban Munder
Emily Browning Katie Harwood
Gabriel Byrne Captain Sean Murphy
Francesca Rettondini Francesca


The film was widely panned upon its theatrical release. According to Rottentomatoes, the film holds a "rotten" ranking of 13%. The general consensus stating that "With a plot as creaky as the boat, Ghost Ship fails to deliver the scares".

According to Metacritic the film holds a score of 28/100. The general consensus of "generally negative reviews".

The film did have a few supporters, with The Washington Post calling it "A fresh setting for terror shenanigans". The Chicago Tribune called it "An adequate horror movie for the Halloween season". Roger Ebert stated "It's better than you expect but not as good as you hope" and the Detroit Free Press declaring "It may just scare the pants off you".

The website Bloody Disgusting listed Ghost Ship's opening massacre as #13 in their list of "The Top 13 Kills in Horror Movie History".[4]

Box office

With a reported budget of 20 million dollars, the film opened to number 3 at the box office with more than 11.5 million dollars in ticket sales as Jackass: The Movie dominated the cinema releases. The film grossed over 30 million dollars in North America and had a foreign gross of over 38 million dollars. The film went on to make over 68 million dollars worldwide, making the film a box office success. The film grossed a total of $30,113,491 in the U.S. Box Office.


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