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Feature: Ghost Ship

Trouble in store for Julianna Margulies

Director Steve Beck discusses his new, creepy chiller project...

Steve Beck didn’t need any additional help to start trembling before he took on the task of bringing the latest entry in this terror category, Ghost Ship, to fruition.

“In all honesty, I hate to be scared,” says Beck. “Really, truly, there’s enough horrifying things in the world as it is. But it’s a lot of fun entertaining people these days.”

Beck, a former visual effects artist (The Abyss) who has also become a popular director of commercials, has been doing a lot of entertaining the past couple of years, mostly in ghastly ways. He follows up last year’s Thirteen Ghosts with Ghost Ship which tells the spooky tale of a team of sea salvagers who get more than they bargained for when they board a derelict cruise liner. It also may be the first terrorfest to draw inspiration from a Humphrey Bogart film. (When pressed for a one-line description of his film, Beck comes up with “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre meets The Shining on a boat,” adding that star Julianna Margulies does a decent Bogie impression.)

Asked about the back-to-back interpretations of the ghostly realm, Beck credits M Night Shyamalan’s recent success The Sixth Sense, one of his favourite genre films, with bringing the time-honoured format up to date. In his eyes, though, the interest in ghosts never went anywhere.

“I think Human Beings have a certain fascination with their own mortality, and the suggestions of ghosts means that there’s maybe a possibility of, like, phoning home a little bit here,” the soft-spoken Beck says. “And I think there’s an immense opportunity to sort of reformat and re-tell the ghost story more effectively, more intelligently, with more sophistication. I think we can thank M Night Shyamalan for getting us back on that track.”

Part of Beck’s game plan for that track includes a combination of jolts and jokes. Even though the members of this salvage crew ( including Margulies as the team’s adventurous leader, Isaiah Washington as her pragmatic first mate, and Gabriel Byrne as the sage captain in charge of everything) get into some treacherous situations, an undercurrent of camp humour runs through the entire production. For Beck, a man who doesn’t like to be scared, levity is essential to the enterprise, and to the tone of the Dark Castle realm.

“Humour makes Horror better, I think,” he says. “It’s a balance. ... I think if you just go after people with a knife for two-and-a-half hours chasing them around in a dark house, two things are going to happen. You’re going to come out of that theatre agitated but not entertained. When you come out of this film, you feel entertained. And I think we have to understand that this is giant Hallowe’en party. That’s what we presented here. That’s what the Dark Castle movies are. It’s Warner’s Hallowe’en feast. Like a Christmas story, only for Hallowe’en.”

by David Waldon

More on the making of this film in
Shivers #101

Ghost Ship © Warner Bros. Image © Visual Imagination Ltd
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Shivers #101, see below for ordering options
Shivers #101
Dec/January 2003
ships from Nov 21 2002
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