2012 Film Challenge #53 - Ghost Ship
I think I should stop watching all horror films made after a yet-to-be-determined arbitrary cut-off year.
Modern horror just seems to make me angry.
A lot of the films I watch and review (if you can call what I do here “reviewing”) are probably “bad films” by a lot of people's standards.
Yet despite the wobbly sets, the inchoate plots, the hammy acting and the feeble dialogue, these films have something which I find to be unfortunately lacking in the vast majority of modern horror.
Call it charm. Call it atmosphere. Call it The X-Factor, if you really want to.
But no matter what you call it, my point is that these days, something's missing. Something's wrong.
Ironically, I'm quite certain that this missing something can be blamed on a general air of maximalism. If you swathe too much paint onto a canvas, eventually you'll get a thick brown sludge which will peel slowly and die.
Those who make horror these days seem to have forgotten that the dampest corners of the collective subconscious of any audience paints a much scarier picture than even the most generous of SFX budgets.
Take Ghost Ship, for instance. It desperately wants to be “The Shining at Sea”, but it ends up being a quite literally watered-down Event Horizon clone.
At one point a character wanders through a deserted ballroom. Right before his eyes, by process of very expensive CGI, time reverses itself as the ballroom is gradually returned to its former glory.
This character, we're led to believe, is under some kind of evil bewitchment. But it's hard to relate to his possessed mind when all we're presented with is smokes and mirrors.
It would have been much more disturbing – both for him and for us – had the apparent transition to the past occurred in the blink of an eye. But no. Ghost Ship would much rather dazzle you with fancy computerised fireworks than attempt to tap into that part of your brain which has given the horror genre such an enduring appeal.
That scene, I feel, sums up the film in one.
Or perhaps does the utterly implausible and farcical opening scene, in which an entire dancefloor is bisected by a tautened wire placed exactly where it wouldn't be on a real ship. This massacre demands that you suspend all disbelief immediately. Unfortunately, all that we're subsequently presented with only serves to bore and irritate.
They had limitless potential with the abandoned cruise ship setting (complete with blood-soaked faded 60s glamour motif!) but they ruin any chances they might ever have had of achieving something memorable by adding layer upon layer of tired and lazy tropes.
A little girl wanders the corridors, all evil grins and sinister leers. Even for the 3% of the target audience who somehow haven't yet seen The Shining, any disquiet she might ever have instilled instantly vanishes the second she's revealed to be an ally.
So the real monsters must be really scary, right? I mean, if the creepy little girl's on our side, imagine what horrors lay in store for us once the more malicious spirits show themselves?
No. They just look like everyone else. Sigh. Regular people who get a little bit older! Is that scary? Maybe. I mean, you've not seen The Shining, remember?
Beyond that, you have shadowy corridors which lead to further shadowy corridors – all of which are lit by roving torch lights and little else.
Perhaps directors still think that such darkness will be scary because to explore such an environment in the flesh really would freak most people out.
Onscreen, though, it's different. Because we've followed countless heroines through countless shadowy corridors, it's almost as though we're viewing them in stark daylight. We're led by the hand at all times. We're not quite warned in advance, and yet still we know as to exactly when something's going to jump out and make a loud noise.
Loud noises are scary. Will this do?
No, it won't.
And then there's the music. If nothing else, Ghost Ship acts as a time capsule to such unfortunate early 21st century ideas as “metal is terrifying!”
And yes, it can be. Nu Metal, though, was the worst music ever. It's ridiculous. Its prominence in Ghost Ship, then, makes Ghost Ship ridiculous by association alone.
And then later there's an extended flashback of an atrocity exhibition. We see wave after wave of people murdered in increasingly sadistic ways.
Testament, once again, to the lack of imagination (and abundance of arrogance and pretension) that went into making Ghost Ship is the choice of music and presentation for this scene.
Trip-hop. Slow motion.
It looks like a perfume advert.
Ghost Ship was completely joyless from start to finish.
And yet, this disasterpiece of fathomless mediocrity doesn't even represent the pits of modern horror.
How utterly depressing.