See evil. See evil run. Run, evil, run all the way to cable television purgatory.
Recently returned from a six-month gig, the crew of an Anchorage salvage boat is hired by a young airplane pilot (Desmond Harrington) to tug in an ocean liner that he's sighted adrift in the Bering Sea. Some 40 years earlier luxurious Italian ship the Antonia Graza had disappeared. What we know (but the tug crew doesn't) is that the ship's passengers had been systematically murdered in an interlude of such grisly extravagance that director Steve Beck, whose first feature was "Thirteen Ghosts," stages the massacre not once but twice, as if to ensure that we savor each fatal blow. Beck has a way with severed body parts -- he snaps a mean wire cable -- but there's so little substance to Mark Hanlon and John Pogue's screenplay, which is as vaporous as the story's restless phantoms and considerably less engaging, that all he can do is pour on the blood.
With its minor shivers and modest Grand Guignol showmanship, "Ghost Ship" is the sort of flimflam that would have filled eight paneled pages in the great horror comic book "Tales From the Crypt" or consumed about 30 minutes on the latter-day HBO spinoff. Two of that show's original producers, action auteur Joel Silver and director Robert Zemeckis, also co-produced this film (they were executive producers on "Thirteen Ghosts"), and it's too bad that neither they nor their director put a fraction of the effort tending to niceties of character development that they did to the nastiness of character annihilation.
Among the familiar faces that help pass the time are Julianna Margulies, squaring her jaw with Sigourney Weaver fortitude, Ron Eldard, Isaiah Washington and Gabriel Byrne. None is called on to do much, and all comply accordingly.
"Ghost Ship": Rated R for strong violence and gore, language, and sexuality. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. In general release.