‘Ghost Ship (2002)’ is Your New Favorite Anti-Capitalist Melodrama

Have you ever wanted a cross between Titanic, The Haunted Mansion, and maybe Indiana Jones, look no further than the 2002 classic Ghost Ship. Shoutout to my friends for watching this one over Zoom with me, it was quite the experience.

Ghost Ship opens with one of the coolest kill scenes that I’ve seen in a while. A wire on the Antonio Graza unravels and cuts all of the passengers dancing on the main deck in half. We see them all fall over, limbs everywhere, except for a young Emily Browning who remains standing amongst the wreckage. How does everyone else get sliced except for her? We never find out because it turns out that this opening shot is a metaphor for how everyone actually dies. Is that considered a plot twist? Again, we don’t know, but I think that’s what makes it fun.

Years later, a greedy white man pretends to not be a greedy white man and enlists the help of The Good Wife herself Julianna Margulies, who plays our lead Maureen, and her assorted boat salvager friends to go explore the waters in search of an unknown boat he has seen floating around. They go because why not and also this is a fictional film, so they gotta. 

Arguably the best part of the entire movie is when the helmsman is driving their boat out to sea and is fully rocking out to some heavy metal music. Hip hip hooray to that man for making me laugh and drawing us into a movie with a bold concept, that really only gets worse from here. But in a good way. 

They come across The Antonia Gaza, a ship that has been missing for forty years. There are a few surprises aboard the ship and they are, you guessed it: ghosts and gold. And you will never guess why everyone on the boat was killed in the opening scene! Yes, it was for the gold. 

The Antonia Gaza remains haunted by the young girl and other passengers/workers who were aboard the ship that fateful night. The little girl ghost communicates with The Good Wife, explaining to her the specifics of the ship and how it became haunted. All of it is super complicated, much too complicated to happen with only about 40 minutes left of the movie, but I guess lore is always a good time. According to the little girl ghost, the greedy white man is killing people to get enough souls for the devil, and also he uses the gold to get people to do his bidding so he can deliver his quota of souls to “management.” Who is management? We never find out, but we can assume it’s the devil of some sort. 

It turns out the greedy white man, whose last name is Ferryman (get it, because he ferries the souls of people?) is a ghost himself, so when the crew tries to kill him, he doesn’t die! When we look at the obvious allegories here (though I have a huge feeling these were unintentional), the greedy white man who cannot die is bad, and the gold he uses to convince others to do evil is also bad, thus I think it’s safe to say that this capitalist system is, in fact, bad.

The crew stays upon the haunted ship in an attempt to salvage the ship and get the gold, but they are not concerned about the evil forces at work. They are drawn in by their hopeful reward, despite knowing that these souls are trapped on the ship. It’s pretty indicative of the risk they are willing to take in order to take ownership of the boat. 

Ghost Ship may not make a whole lot of sense, but there are some fantastic lines and moments, and the bloody pool scene is worth a watch for that alone. Ghosts are my favorite horror element, so even though these ghosts are not as developed as I would want them to be, I still enjoyed the concept being put to use for this message. Overall, we leave with the idea that if you are being called upon by the devil to give him souls, money may be the way to do that, but that may not be the right thing to do. And this goes for the same model being used in any real-life situation as well.

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