Ghost Ship opens in May 1962, as the 600 passengers aboard the Antonia Brasa are having a great time, dancing along to the sweet sounds of Italian vocalist Francesca (Francesca Rettondini), but this comes to an abrupt, horrific halt in one of the most spectacular and memorable opening sequences that both shocks the viewer and sets the mood for what’s to come. The film then cuts to the present as the salvage crew of the Arctic Warrior tug boat are celebrating their latest haul when they are approached by pilot Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) who says that he has found a mysterious ship in international waters and wants their help to retrieve it, in exchange for a 20% finders fee. Captain Murphy (Gabriel Byrne) surveys the rest of his crew—first engineer Greer (Isaiah Washington), mechanic Santos (Alex Dimitriades) and salvage crew Epps (Julianna Margulies), Dodge (Ron Eldard) and Munder (Karl Urban)—and they’re all in. So they head off to the Bering Strait in search of possible treasure, but are both shocked and delighted to discover that the ship in question is the Antonia Graza, a luxury Italian oceanliner that mysteriously disappeared 40 years earlier.
As the crew splits up to explore the eerie remains of the ship and assess its damage, they start to experience some strange, inexpiable occurrences, hear odd noises, and see glimpses of ghosts. Epps, Murphy and the others initially wave these off, but once they uncover the real treasure aboard the ship, the crew quickly discovers that someone or something won’t them leave with it. They find themselves trapped aboard this ship, slowly learning the truth about its horrific past as some evil force picks them off one-by-one, using the crew’s fears and desires to turn them against one another. Will any of them manage to survive and escape from this deadly ghost ship?!
I had first seen Ghost Ship when it was originally released nearly 20 years ago, but hadn’t revisited it since, so I had forgotten a lot of the twists and turns in the story. The film does a nice job of introducing the crew and their relationships before all hell breaks loose later on. We see that this is a group of friends who love and support one another, but later on will start to question loyalties and motives. The film slowly ratchets up the tension, first starting with quick glances of ghosts here and there, having the character and viewer question if they really saw what they thought they saw. But then the threats, dangers and odd occurrences become bigger and harder to ignore. The film keeps the audience guessing as to what is actually going on—while you think you may know what happened based on the opening sequence, there is far more to this story! The filmmakers also utilizes the creepy setting to put the viewer on edge, and combine this with the usual horror movie camera and audio tricks to elicit jump scares and shocks from the audience. The production value is excellent, successfully transporting the viewer onto this creepy ship that has been trapped in the ocean for 40 years.
Ghost Ship still feels quite fresh and modern, thanks in large part to the stellar presentation on Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release. The picture quality is phenomenal, with truly black blacks and a clean, pristine picture that captures so much detail, everything from pores on faces, to hairs on necks, and the rusty textures of the ship. The picture looks great in the bright pastel opening party scene as the far darker scenes later on in the film. The quality is also equally as good both underwater and on the surface. The Blu-ray’s soundtrack is also quite impressive, providing a truly immersive viewing experience, with room-filling sounds of thunderstorms, and the constant crash of the ocean or creaking of the boat to set the ambiance. I would never have guessed that this film was 20 years old!
Shout! Factory has put together some nice bonus material for this release including a brand new audio commentary track with director Steve Beck, as well as new interviews with actor Isaiah Washington, makeup effects supervisor Jason Baird, and producer Gil Adler. The first two of these new interviews look more like Skype calls recorded during the pandemic, while the last one looks a little cleaner and more professionally recorded, much like the interviews that typically appear on these Shout! discs. The release also ports over about 40 minutes of vintage behind-the-scenes featurettes from the previous home video releases. Like other Shout! releases, there is no digital copy code included. The Blu-ray disc comes packed in a standard HD keepcase with a slipcover. The Blu-ray insert is reversible, with the alternate artwork displayed below:
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Commentary with Director Steve Beck (1:30:42)
Justin Beahm of Reverend Entertainment/Shout! Factory moderates this brand new audio commentary with director Steve Beck. It’s less of a scene-by-scene commentary and more of an interview with the director. The director shares lots of interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the production, starting with how he first got involved with the film, how the script changed from its original version as Chimera, filming the memorable opening sequence, casting the film, shooting underwater, and more. It’s a really great track that should please fans of the film or of the director’s previous film Thirteen Ghosts, which comes up a lot.
- This Isn’t Real – Isaiah Washington on Ghost Ship (6:37)
In this brand new interview, actor Isaiah Washington (“Greer”) talks about how he got the role, how Greer was originally supposed to be the lead (more like Murphy’s role in the crew), the dangers of filming in the water and the concern about sharks, Greer’s unraveling, filming in front of a green screen, working with Francesca, changing his exit scene to be more respectful, and more. Behind-the-scenes footage from the other featurettes is mixed in.
- Every Body on Board – Makeup Effects Supervisor Jason Baird on Ghost Ship (6:29)
In this brand new interview, makeup effects supervisor Jason Baird talks about how he got involved with the project, the massive scale of the opening sequence, creating the bloated dead bodies, “hooking” Francesca, creating replica silicon bodies of cast members (he even shows off the head he created of Gabriel Byrne), and more. Behind-the-scenes footage from the other featurettes is mixed in.
- Dark Castle at Sea – Producer Gil Adler on Ghost Ship (7:14)
In this brand new interview, producer Gil Adler talks about getting involved with the project, requesting to never film on a boat or on the water, rewriting the script to make it more accessible and more frightening, working with director Steve Beck again, casting the film with actors who would work well together (casting the group rather than the individual), creating the rippling light reflections, the concerns about sharks in the water, an audience of kangaroos on the set, and more. He has a very fun, dry humor! Behind-the-scenes footage from the other featurettes is mixed in.
- Max on Set: Ghost Ship (15:06)
The cast and filmmakers discuss the story, characters, sets and visual effects, and give a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie in this vintage 2002 featurette that originally aired on Cinemax. Includes interviews with producers Joel Silver & Gilbert Adler, director Stephen Beck, production designer Graham “Grace” Walker, visual effects supervisor Dale Duguid, and stars Gabriel Byrne (“Murphy”), Isaiah Washington (“Greer”), Juilianna Margulies (“Epps”), Desmond Harrington (“Ferriman”), Karl Urban (“Munder”), Ron Eldard (“Dodge”) & Emily Browning (“Katie”). Presented in 4:3 format.
- Visual Effects (6:01)
The filmmakers talk about creating the visual effects for the film, including both practical miniatures as well as digital effects. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with producer Gilbert Adler, visual effects supervisor Dale Duguid, director Stephen Beck, and model making supervisor Tom Davies. Originally created for the 2003 DVD, this featurette is presented in 4:3 format.
- A Closer Look at the Gore (5:32)
Makeup effects supervisors Howard Berger & Jason Baird narrate this behind-the-scenes footage of some of the makeup and prosthetics used in the film. Also includes interviews with producer Gilbert Adler, director Stephen Beck, and visual effects supervisor Dale Duguid. Originally created for the 2003 DVD, this featurette is presented in 4:3 format.
- Designing the Ghost Ship (5:42)
The filmmakers give a behind-the-scenes look at the effort and detail then went into building the ship, while text appears on the screen providing additional details about the set. Includes interviews with producers Gilbert Adler & Joel Silver, production designer Grace Walker, and director Stephen Beck. Originally created for the 2003 DVD, this featurette is presented in 4:3 format.
- Secrets of the Antonia Graza (6:12)
Collection of audio performances related to the events of the film. Segments include a panicked radio discussion between a crew investigating the ship, Francesca talking about her love for Jack Ferriman and assisting him in his plan, the crew planning their takeover of the ship, and Katie talking about her nightmare aboard the ship. Originally created for the 2003 DVD, this featurette is presented in 4:3 format.
- Mudvayne “Not Falling” Music Video (3:10)
Presented in 4:3 format
- Theatrical Trailer (2:14)
Shout! Factory’s new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of Ghost Ship looks and sounds amazing, making the nearly 20-year-old film feel like a fresh, modern release. The movie has an iconic, memorable opening sequence, and follows this up with a creepy tale with some interesting and unexpected twists. This new Blu-ray release has three new interviews as well as a new audio commentary with the director. This Collector’s Edition Blu-ray comes recommended for fans of the genre, and is easily a must own for fans of the film with its stellar technical presentation and new bonus material.