Ghost Voyage (2008)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Antonio Sabato Jr., Deanna Russo, Nicholas Irons, Julian Berlin, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Directed by James Oxford
And the award for the most obvious Sci-Fi Channel original movie goes to ... Ghost Voyage!
A small group of people of varying (and in some cases shady) backgrounds awaken aboard a seemingly deserted cargo vessel with no memory as to how they got there. The ship's steward appears and rattles off a short list of strange rules they are to follow or face dire consequences. This steward offers no answers as to how they got there or where they are headed other than to describe this as "a voyage of their own making". He then vanishes into thin air right before them. It will take them over two-thirds of the way into the film's running time to figure out they're all actually dead and this ship is some sort of sea-faring purgatory taking them to their final destination. It's so obvious from the get-go it's laughable.
Before anyone screams I just spoiled the big third act revelation, I want to say to all of you that one cannot spoil that which is blatantly obvious within the first five minutes of a movie. It's that obvious. I'm not trying to sound like some sort of smarty pants know-it-all when I tell you that I knew exactly what was really going on mere minutes into the film. It really is that obvious. It's so obvious everyone reading this should have it figured out right off the bat, too. At least I hope you would. We've all seen this scenario done many times before and this one doesn't exactly try being subtle setting up its premise.
This cargo ship has no crew. They're sailing amid stormy, foggy waters, almost unnaturally so. Hallways are adorned with photos of famous sunken ships and pictures of some of history's most infamous mass murderers. They find maps that show no land. The controls of the ship are locked on a course they cannot change. On top of all that, they keep seeing ghostly apparitions and, again, they have no memory as to how they got there. Yet it still takes these people over two-thirds of the running time to come to the same conclusion the rest of us will have come to within the film's opening minutes. The characters in this film are so dense the average "Scooby Doo" episode to them must be like trying to unravel an Agatha Christie mystery. That it takes them so long to figure out that which is so painfully obvious makes it all the more laughable.
Little about this vision of the netherworld will make much sense when you really stop and think about it. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays the mysterious steward of the cargo ship, carrying himself in such a manner that if he had a cigarette in hand he'd be outright imitating Rod Serling at the end of a "Twilight Zone" episode. His three rules to them are to not breach any closed doors, not enter the captain's quarters, not refuse any orders from a member of the crew (odd given he's the only crew member), and no smoking. The first thing one of them does is go up onto the deck to smoke a cigarette. The smoke from his cig forms a ghost that kills him, followed by a cheesy CGI vortex that sucks him down. I realize the MPAA is now adding smoking to the list of things they take into consideration when rating a movie but isn't making smoking an offense punishable by eternal damnation just a tad much?
The other uninteresting passengers include a slutty Hollywood party girl, the son of a Russian shipping tycoon, a heroin addict, a sleazy movie producer, a pair of mafia arsonists that look and talk like "Sopranos" extras, an art curator with daddy issues, and Antonio Sabato Jr. as a guilt ridden NASCAR mechanic who cannot help but talk in racing speak. There's a scene where he's trying to unlock the steering controls and he actually says, "If I just had my tools I could get it to the finish line." Nobody talks like that - not even in "Speed Racer" cartoons.
The one thing they all have in common - besides being dead and taking a laughably long time to figure this fact out - is that they're all entirely too calm about having just woken up aboard a crewless seagoing vessel with no memory as to how they got there and no clue where they're going. I mean the producer and the starlet are more concerned with getting in each other's pants, and they even decide to do it in the captain's quarters, of all places. The Russian shipping heir and the mob thugs will join forces in a plot to steal all the priceless ancient artifacts discovered in the cargo hold once they dock even though they've no clue if, where, or when the ship will dock somewhere. Only Sabato Jr. and the female art curator he starts romancing seem to show any real concern as to what in the hell is going on and even they're remarkably low-key about it all things considered. When we learn what these two's relatively minor sins compared to most of their shipmates are that could get them damned for eternity you come to realize that in this version of the afterlife potential damnation is based on more nitpicking than that found in one of my typical reviews.
Again, it all comes back to the film taking two-thirds and quite a bit of thinning out of the cast for these people to finally realize that they're dead, on a boat to Hell, and if they break any of the rules ghostly apparitions, CGI fire squids, or zombie demon skanks that throw skull-shaped dragonballs that don't do anything are going to kill them again (so to speak) and have them sucked directly to Hell. Even if they don't break any rules they're still going to be damned if they don't find a way off the ship since it's taking them straight to the mouth of Hell, envisioned as a slow-moving oceanic whirlpool surrounded by glowing green lights. Not at all how I imagined such a thing would look.
Truth is this is one of those movies where there's only stuff to mock and even on that level it still isn't particularly worthwhile. The Sci-Fi Channel has been on a roll of late having premiered two entertaining original movies in a row: Showdown at Area 51 (review) and Beyond Loch Ness (review). I was hoping they could make it three in a row with Ghost Voyage. Oh, well. Inoffensively bad at best and I wasn't totally bored despite it making the plot to Sarah Landon & the Paranormal Hour seem tricky by comparison.
Yet despite being unoriginal, not the least bit suspenseful, so simplistic as to make the average "Goosebumps" story seem layered, with characters that are total morons who keep doing unrealistically moronic things, and often providing viewers with little more than all the thrills and chills that comes with watching people slowly walkabout the interior of an empty cargo ship for long periods of time, I'm actually surprised to say that I wasn't bored out of my mind. I can only chalk that up to being kept on the edge of my seat watching, waiting, and wondering how long the movie was going to take until it allowed its characters to come to the same conclusion everyone with half a brain watching will have already come to very shortly after the opening credits finished rolling - and to see what moronic action certain characters will make next. For goodness sake, the soul survivors save their souls ... I cannot believe I am about to type this ... They'll save their souls with a fire extinguisher and some electrical tape!
And because I had nothing better to do during the commercial breaks I decided to have some fun by rewriting the lyrics to "The Love Boat" TV theme song to fit Ghost Voyage. Everyone sing along now...
Hell, terrifying, we're screwed
Come aboard, they're expecting you
Hell, sin's greatest reward
Soul in limbo, the choice is up to you
Soon will be making another run
The Ghost Voyage
Promises suffering for everyone
Set a course for purgatory
You’re headed into damnation
Death will claim everyone
No escape your time has come.
Welcome aboard - It's Heeeeeell!
2 out of 5
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