Ghost Rig (2001)

Starring Jamie Barber, Jaason Simmons, Noel Fitzpatrick, Kerry Norton, and David Rae

Directed by Julian Kean

Remember the show “Baywatch Nights”? It was a short-lived spin-off of “Baywatch” with David Hasselhoff playing the same character only he moonlighted as a private detective. With the advent of this spin-off we were supposed to believe that he was a lifeguard by day and a private investigator by night. When he slept is anyone’s guess. The first season of the show drew mediocre ratings but it still got picked up for a second and final season. In a desperate effort to save the floundering show and since “The X-Files” was currently at its peak they transformed the “Baywatch Nights” into a supernatural thriller. Instead of dealing with common criminals, Hasselhoff and company would investigate all the supernatural happenings in the area because apparently vampires, aliens, witch covens, and what not really like to stick close to the California coastline. Image “Kolchak the Night Stalker” for the mentally challenged and you get the idea.

On one faithful episode that I dared to watch from beginning to end, Hasselhoff decided to head out to this abandoned oilrig where something mysterious occurred. Turns out they had inadvertently unleashed this glowing green blob-like creature that consumed everything in its path. Fortunately, Hasselhoff was able to make like MacGyver and create an instant flame-thrower in a matter of moments from commonly found items in the kitchen of an oilrig. I think he also built a bomb too and blew the thing up in the end. I forget exactly how it ended but I know Hasselhoff survived, so it certainly wasn’t a happy ending. I’ll never forget this episode just because of one line of dialogue uttered by the big-breasted, Pamela Anderson wannabe on the show when told that Hasselhoff’s character had been missing the entire day. “What am I worried about? It’s Mitch Buchanan…In a boat…On the water.” Priceless.

Okay, so what the hell does any of this have to do with the movie Ghost Rig? It’s as simple as this. When an episode of “Baywatch Nights” is infinitely more imaginative and vastly more entertaining than the movie with a somewhat similar premise you’re watching then you know the movie you’re watching is without question one of the all-time worst. To put it mildly, Ghost Rig is one of the most outright boring horror movies I’ve ever had the displeasure of squirming in my seat while watching.

The basic premise is that a group of Earth-loving, Aussie tree-huggers have arrived on this oilrig out in the middle of the ocean (which ocean is never told) with plans to overtake this big, corporate oilrig and sink it in order to turn it into an artificial reef. Basically, they’re eco-terrorists, which doesn’t exactly make them an overly sympathetic bunch in my book. This group consists of ex-“Baywatch” hunk Jaason Simmons as the ringleader, a bunch of people with flashlights, an overly aggressive female, the guy who immediately gets a bad feeling that something just isn’t right with this place, and the guy in the wheelchair who was crippled while working on the oilrig and now wants to stick it to the man. Calling their characters one-dimensional is an understatement. Is it possible for a character to be semi-dimensional?

Well, strangely enough, the three or four man skeleton crew that is supposed to occupying this rig during its down time is nowhere to be found and there is no power in the place. They get the back-up generators running but they only power a handful of rooms and corridors. That’s okay because the movie could only afford about seven different sets anyway. Hell, the whole concept of being set aboard an oilrig barely factors into the actual plot. This could have just as easily been set in the stockrooms of the local Wal-Mart and it wouldn’t have made that big a difference to the plot.

As they stumble around looking for signs of life they instead find signs that something bad happened on board and stumble upon a room with ritualistic markings on the floor. Of course, they can’t just hightail it out of the place ASAP because one of those plot convenient raging thunderstorms has come along. Soon they uncover a videocassette that reveals what really happened to the previous crew and, sure enough, the supernatural had something to do with it. And that’s where the killing starts.

The excruciatingly boring first half-hour is pretty much comprised of people roaming around darkened rooms and corridors with flashlights while talking about how odd such and such is. These scenes are punctuated by fake scares involving people coming up behind someone and startling them or people popping up in front of someone from out of nowhere and startling them. Hell, they even have one person get startled by a huge rat without ever bothering to explain what a huge rat was doing on an oilrig in the middle of the ocean. I think the first half-hour alone set a new record for the most overuse of this clichéd technique in a single movie.

We move on to the numbing second half hour where the evil presence begins body jumping and leaving corpses in its wake while the rest tries to figure out what’s going on.

It all culminates in the movie’s unapologetic rip-off of a third act where, tell me if this sounds familiar, nobody trusts one another and think the other might be the inhuman one and so a test must be performed to reveal who really isn’t who they appear to be. Finally, we have the surprise twist ending that registers a zero on the Richter scale of cinematic shock, especially since by that point I sure as hell didn’t give a damn what happened to anyone or anything involved in this film.

Sitting through Ghost Rig requires the patience of Job. The actors and the director are trying to make something out of nothing but the movie is so utterly derivative of other movies and commits the greatest sin any movie can, it’s boring as hell. I still can’t believe it took four screenwriters to come up with this dreck.

I’ve heard people use the phrase, “This movie is the reason why the Fast Forward button was invented.” Well, Ghost Rig is the reason why the Fast Forward, Stop, and Eject buttons were invented. For those of you watching on DVD, it’s also the reason why the Chapter Skip and DVD Menu buttons were invented too. Any button that either turns this movie off or gets you through it faster is a blessing.

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Jon Condit

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