Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ghost Rig (2003)

Most of the time, rigs don't have ghosts in them - it's just not something that people would commonly associate with rigs. It is for this reason that Ghost Rig is a subversive and terrifying experience. I mean, having a ghost is one thing. Having a rig is another. But having them both together in the same movie is just a stroke of genius! Ghost Rig. What a fresh combination. If that wasn't enough, this movie also features characters walking around in the dark and being afraid of things. Isn't that awesome?

Oh, if only we could all maintain such blissful ignorance.

Director: Julian Kean
Starring: Noel Fitzpatrick, Body Jumping Demon

We start off this movie with a bunch of environmental activist people going to look at this rig and stop the maintenance workers from toppling the rig into the ocean as a "natural reef." As long as there’s no Ron Perlman or ghost caribou in this movie, I’m okay with that. The leader of their group talks to a guy I think was probably the actual cameraman of the movie, giving him all the exposition about why they're all there:

I guess these scenes are just the standard exposition ones – not terrible, but really not very imaginative. I have to say I don’t like this lady shouting in my face this whole scene though – unappealing.

How generic are the rest of these characters? They’re every tired, boring cliché ever. You got a bunch of masculine meatheads with no personalities whatsoever, mostly there to just bark extremities at one another. There’s the hot blonde chick who of course serves as the nurse of the group. And of course, not one, but TWO “strong” women who are trying their damndest to be Michelle Rodriguez – and failing hard.

These characters are basically every ragtag pseudo-tough group of “adventurers” in every single horror movie like this – they aren’t interesting at all, and they don’t have personalities you’ll remember, but they can scowl for the camera pretty well!

The movie progresses much like a person runs on a treadmill: time passes, but not a lot of actual progress is made, and at the end you’re just sweaty and aching to go drink yourself silly because of it. The characters meander around for what seems like ages looking for people on this rig who can answer their questions. Apparently it’s big, so I get that it takes a while to search through all of it.

But c’mon – you’re telling me that if there were actually PEOPLE on this RIG, they wouldn’t have just ambushed you when they heard your lady screaming her head off about why you guys were there? I really doubt they’re just hiding away in the walls. Idiots.

I wouldn’t harp on that so much if they weren’t doing it literally half of the fuckin’ movie – yeah; they’re really still harping about whether or not there are people on the rig for most of the movie. It’s not brain science, you morons. Send everyone out separately to cover ground and make sure, and give them walkie talkies to communicate so nobody gets lost or hurt. But apparently I’m just not a professional oil rig environmental crusader. I don’t know the ropes. It’s probably totally professional for these people to talk about having sex in the abandoned rig:

I love the girl's line: "Is that all you can think about?" Lady - you don't know the half of it.

To play stupid kids’ games like jumping out and scaring their team members for a laugh:


And most importantly, cowering and crying in the corner like a pussy:

Seriously. Aside from the fact that you've been there maybe an hour or something, why would you agree to come on this rig if you were afraid of the dark? At least the rest of the guys just seem content with playing Alien, wandering around in the dark and waiting for the camera to get a good creepy angle to focus on. It’s not that bad or anything, but you’ve seen all of these camera shots before and the atmosphere isn’t that arresting. At least they’re trying though.

So I guess the movie just kind of plods along. There’s nothing about it that’s really all that awful or anything – more than I can say for some of the stuff I review. But it’s just so dull. We finally get a kill scene when one of the guys is strangled with some plastic wrap:

A cross between the classic Black Christmas opening kill and the cover of a 1990s Goth Rock album.

And what's this; a SECOND body, this time found in a bathroom stall? Two deaths for the price of one - a bargain for sure.

Man, the Ring tape got a wider distribution than I thought.

Other than that, the most exciting thing that happens is when they find out one of the guys was actually trying to betray them and sell their secrets to a rival organization – or some shit like that, anyway. I’d say the guy is a fucking moron for just sitting around and talking about that shit where anyone can overhear him, but really, he’s actually a genius. Why? Because apparently, according to the other characters, he’s been with them SIX MONTHS.

Fuckin’ seriously, he was doing this for six months and nobody noticed? I could see if he was real covert about it, but no – this guy just sits around in open areas and makes obviously suspect phone calls about the information he’s learning. At least wait until everyone else is asleep or you're off the isolated area you're all trapped in together! He’s about as good of a spy as Ronald McDonald would be if you threw him into a group of mimes and asked him to blend in! C’mon. You guys deserve whatever crap you get.


We go through every cliché in these scenes – they bitch and moan about everything, try to escape, but oh, of course – the radio is broken! How convenient. Are you going to pull the whole “no cell phones” thing too? We even find out that the leader of the group "neglected" to tell them about a quarantine down in the rig that could have been life threatening, since it was just a rumor that there was some kind of quarantine. I guess the "quarantine" ends up being the demon possession stuff they find out about soon after.

I just love that logic, though. "It was just a rumor, so I used that as an excuse to put you all in grave danger and strand you in a place multiple people have died in at this point!" He gets so defensive about this, too, which is pretty hilarious. I've never seen someone so obviously wrong try to make everyone else out to be the bad guys. With the lack of morals and the disregard for his peoples' safety, this guy would make an awesome CEO for Amazon or Walmart!

Radio broken, people trapped underground arguing all the time, one guy is a traitor AND the leader is hiding something from them? It really is every single late 90s/early 2000s horror stereotype ever. Why not throw in some stale relationship drama? It’s about the only cliché you missed.

We also get some scenes of the body-jumping demon thing, possessing certain people and making them talk kinda like a bad children’s Haunted House narrator. Maybe that's scary if you're on 'shrooms or something.

They even come across a video where some people who were on the rig before talk about a book and something that has to be read to stop the body-jumping demon thing. Of course there HAS to be a video made even though they had no reason to do so – how else can we fit in our contrived and tired exposition without that?

"Let's sit around and play Hot Potato Exposition."
"What's that?"
"It's when we each have boring lines that could have been uttered by anyone, and we toss them back and forth to make sure the audience gets all the facts about this scene."
"Sounds incredibly fucking boring and trite!"
"Hush. We're being paid by the line."
"I don't think we're being paid for this movie at all."

They walk around in the dark some more and find a pentagram on the ground along with that book the guy in the video talked about. I have to admit, any movie that can manage to shoehorn in a Satanic ritual on a water-bound oil rig is at least trying. Though I dock some points for the ridiculous acting from Michelle Rodriguez-lite here after the demon possesses her:

Apparently the demon can heal people it possesses. Why? Well, in the end it turns out that wheelchair man was betraying them as a plot to get his legs back – trying to get the demon to come into him just to heal his legs. I guess the plan is to keep the demon in him forever just so he can walk. It really raises a fascinating moral dilemma – demonic possession or having to live in a wheelchair forever? Let us talk about the implications of this for several hours and…

That about sums it up. This movie is just dull. It’s a shame because I can really tell everyone involved was trying to make something good. It’s a frustrating thing because the story, while generic, isn’t bad – and just being generic doesn’t make something bad by default. You can have perfectly good genre-based stories that don’t do anything original. However, with Ghost Rig, it’s the execution that falters – the characters aren’t that interesting, the scenery is pretty drab and the pacing is an excruciating trudge. Every now and then you get some kinda-decent atmospheric moments, but again, it’s nothing really all that good. At best it’s just OK. At worst, it’s positively sleep-inducing.

So, while I can appreciate the effort that went into this whole thing, it’s not a great film. Although it tried gamely, Ghost Rig did not make me want to vacation on a rig of ghosts. Maybe next time, guys … maybe next time.

Hey, wait a second...

One day we will meet on the field of battle, Ghost Rig day...

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