Ghost Voyage – “Seven strangers awaken on a ship adrift at sea. Each has one chance to solve its deadly riddle. And if they don’t… there’ll be hell to pay”
Normally, I wouldn’t start a review with a bit of critique, as I prefer to ease into the discussion of the movie. But I feel that this needs to be pointed out right away – there are nine strangers who awaken on a ship adrift at sea, not seven as the movie poster would have you believe. I have no idea (obviously) who made that mistake, but he or she should probably review counting again. I might recommend that he or she also watch this movie again, but honestly, I can’t in good conscience wish that fate on anyone.
Ghost Voyage tells the story of nine strangers who awaken on a ship adrift at sea. They each have one chance to solve its deadly riddle. (Who would’ve guessed, right?) Michael (Antonio Sabato Jr., The Bold and the Beautiful, Earth 2), Serena (Deanna Russo, Knight Rider, The Young and the Restless), Nicholai (Nicholas Irons, Wicked Wicked Games, Berkeley Square) and the others find themselves on a ship sailing to an unknown destination. They meet the Steward (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Memoirs of a Geisha, Mortal Kombat) who informs them of the rules of the ship but nothing else before mysteriously vanishing. The group slowly explores the ship only to be killed in nasty ways one by one. Pretty standard stuff.
Left – Serena, Michael, and Nicholai; right – the Steward; bottom – Serena and Nicholai
As is par for the course, the CGI in this movie ran the gamut from middling-poor to downright awful. Shots of the ship at sea, when entirely computerized, were acceptable; shots of cigarette-smoke ghosts eviscerating hapless passengers were not so acceptable, and I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t use the majority of the CGI budget to create this strange octopus/skullspider/flame ghost thing that didn’t show up until near the end. But what really stood out was the combination of terrible script writing and wooden line delivery. Rarely can one find a movie that so expertly pairs the two with such an agonizing result (though there was a tongue in cheek homage to the SciFi Channel when one of the characters talks about producing a movie called Jaws vs. Orca; yes, I would watch that movie).
Aside from that, this movie did raise a number of questions, such as how Serena, the daughter of a fisherman, could be so clearly unable to swim; or why it is that, almost universally, ghosts move in jerky fashion from place to place (à la The Ring), then crane their necks at odd angles or have difficulty moving their arms properly (like in parts of Thir13en Ghosts); or, most important of all, how it is that the characters in these movies can remain so very clueless right up to the end when any viewer paying a shred of attention can figure the plot out after ten minutes or so. (Of course, now that I’ve said that, chances are I’m going to end up in one of those situations and not figure it out until it’s way too late but what can ya do?…) For example – they’re on a ship (blatantly obviously called the Azrael, of all things), in an unknown ocean, with an unknown destination, maps that show no land at all, and no sign of any crew whatsoever aside from the Steward. Can anyone out there in Readerland figure out where they are? Anyone at all? Bueller? Bueller? That’s right! They’re in Hell! Congratulations, you win the prize of not needing to watch the last hour of this movie, a gift of time that the rest of us can only envy (though arguably, they are only in Purgatory, or possibly Limbo, depending on how you interpret the movie).
You’d think they’d have figured it out the first time they ran into her…
Normally, this is the point where I start to delve into the science stuff that one typically finds in movies of this nature. However, such science stuff is conspicuously absent from this movie, and I therefore have no science critique. So instead, I’ll discuss the philosophical and relgious implications of the film, of which there are many.
First, the obvious – the ship has nine passengers, and according to Dante Alighieri, the Inferno (Hell) has nine circles. Likewise, as Michael and Serena later discover, the Steward is allegorical to Charon, the ferryman on the river Styx in Greek mythology. (Also, on a side note, how is it that Nicholai and, later, Serena find the cargo hold of the ship filled with funerary symbols from all different cultures – a Celtic cross, an Egyptian funerary boat, one of the terracotta warriors – but still not make the connection that the ship has something to do with death?)
Next, although not all of the passengers’ pasts are revealed, there are some general ties to Dante’s nine circles. For example, two of the passengers sneak off into the Captain’s quarters to have sex, giving in to the sin of lust. Two others allow their anger to rule and destroy them, and another can be seen to represent gluttony by way of heroin addiction. (For a more thorough discussion on the seven deadly sins, follow that link.)
Left – victims of lust; right – one of the victims of wrath and Michael; bottom – victim of gluttony and his punisher
Finally, there is the salvation of the characters in the movie by way of obedience. The Steward warns the passengers at the beginning of the voyage not to engage in certain behaviors (breaching closed doors, entering the Captain’s quarters, smoking); as the passengers ignore his warnings, they get killed and claimed by the various spirits they release during their transgressions. However, the passengers which heed all of the warnings of the Steward are offered a chance at redemption before the ship is pulled into Hell completely (hence the interpretation of the ship as Purgatory instead of Limbo or Hell). This reinforces the teachings of many popular religions that, by living virtuous lives (as defined by society), individuals can redeem themselves from mistakes made in the past, so long as they no longer break rules.
But to be honest, I have to say that analyzing this movie in this fashion, while easy and relatively obvious, also gives it way too much credence and import. At the end of the day (and I don’t say this often), this movie is just bad.