I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a horror film not interested in being scary before Ghost Ship. It seems like a strange concept, but certainly one with a lot of possibilities. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Sewell knew he was making a scary movie without a single scare. I don’t really know what he was doing. A lot of it seems comedic and playful… but those features too almost seem unintentional.
The film is a very linear account of a newly married couple–Dermot Walsh and Hazel Court, who have zero chemistry together–buying a rundown yacht, fixing it up and discovering the rumors about it being haunted are true. Sewell reveals a lot of the establishing situation in flashback and even tells the secret to the mystery in the same way.
Court is fine, but Walsh’s performance is awful. Not sure I’ve ever used wooden to describe a performance (maybe I do it all the time, I don’t remember), but Walsh is very solid teak. His only acceptable times are when it’s a montage or without dialogue.
Technically, Ghost Ship is often good–Eric Spear’s music is excellent and helps the film through its more awkward mood transitions. And Sewell is a fine enough director, perhaps a tad too emotionally distant. His script does feature a thoughtfully imagined “science” to paranormal phenomena.
The film only gets good when Hugh Burden shows up, mostly because his performance is so strong. Unfortunately, he shows up in the last twenty minutes or so.
Directed by Vernon Sewell; written by Sewell and Philip Thornton; director of photography, Stanley Grant; edited by Francis Bieber; music by Eric Spear; produced by Nat Cohen, Stuart Levy and Sewell; released by Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors.
Starring Hazel Court (Margaret Thornton), Dermot Walsh (Guy Thornton), Hugh Burden (Dr. Fawcett), John Robinson (Professor Mansel Martineau), Joss Ambler (Yacht Port Manager), Joan Carol (Mrs. Martineau), Hugh Latimer (Peter), Laidman Browne (Coroner) and Mignon O’Doherty (Mrs. Manley).