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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Ghost Rig (2003)

"Evil has a new home."


A team of environmentalists land on a remote oil rig in order to prevent it from being mothballed and demolished into the sea bed, causing an environmental catastrophe. They find the rig empty, even the maintenance crew who kept it running safely are nowhere to be found. But they also discover something far more sinister aboard.


British horror was seeing something of a revival over during the 00s and whether individuals liked the films or not, it didn't really matter because what mattered is that they were getting made after the home-grown industry’s death in the 80s. Lighthouse, Long Time Dead, The Bunker, Dog Soldiers, 28 Days Later, Severance, The Cottage, Shaun of the Dead are just some which have been made on these shores since the late 90s and the list keeps going on. You can now add Ghost Rig to that list, although it doesn’t really belong in the same company of the majority of those listed. Originally released in 2001 under the highly-random The Devil’s Tattoo moniker, the film has since been re-branded and re-released, no doubt to cash in on Ghost Ship. I prefer the re-titling to be perfectly frank as it’s less pretentious and more accurate about what the film is about. But under either name, the bottom line is the film isn’t very good.

Ghost Rig looks pretty cheap with the decision to shoot on digital video - it doesn't look overly great when used in low brow productions like this (though it is used reasonably well as part of the narrative as the crew try to keep a video diary of their exploits). The sets are sparse and the oil rig setting isn't really used to its full potential, for instance like the Alaskan base was in The Thing, a similar kind of film to which this film clearly models itself upon. There are some establishing scenes outside on the rig but once the film starts to progress, the characters stay inside. Perhaps the budget wouldn't stretch that far to allow some ‘bigger scope’ shots but it would have been good to give it more of an impressive scale instead of believing that this cast of characters are shuffling around the same couple of dingy indoor sets for the entire running time. It's slow and plodding with not a lot of entertainment or character building.

But whilst the limited sets may provide some atmosphere and eeriness as the characters are exploring and coming to the realisation that there's something otherworldly on board, there’s not a great done with it. Finally, the characters realise that something is possessing their bodies and Ghost Rig then does become a bit more like The Thing, throwing in a possession plot could have been done so much better too but all that happens is we get another body swapping film in which different characters become possessed by the entity on the rig. It's just an excuse for the actors to act outside of their character's usual traits for a bit when they become possessed and it's also a cheap way out of showing us the entity in its original form, even a spectre or something would have sufficed.

Another problem in doing that type of film is that you have to have characters that you care about in the first place before they’re possessed and make sure that they aren't just assholes most of the time. Unfortunately, the characters in Ghost Rig aren't likeable at all and they are always bitching and moaning at each other before they become possessed. So it's sometimes hard to tell what is going on when one of them does turn as there’s little change in their character. They’re all eco-warriors but it seems like the usual array of cardboard cut-outs has been wheeled out to place on board the oil rig. It doesn’t help that the script just has them wandering around the oil rig and then, later on, running around the rig without any real purpose. The repetition of the same sequence of events soon leaves the film going around in circles.

Game of Thrones' Rory McCann has an early career appearance and which one he'll no doubt want to drop off his filmography. I watched it long before he became famous and so can't remember how good or bad he was in this. Rest assured, he, like the rest of the actors, had little meat to get their teeth into with their roles. There just isn't enough interest in them, or any events in the film, to really get the audience engaged. A whole lot of nothing spread out over ninety-minutes is a whole lot of nothing at the end of the day.


Final Verdict

I'm not a big fan of Ghost Rig. It's repetitive, boring at that, conjures up little in the way of excitement and doesn’t really get you invested in the film. There was potential and I can appreciate the psychological approach over the straight-out gore but films can’t really live off potential and it needs fulfilling at some point. The decent atmosphere and mood on board the oil rig is wasted with a lack of ideas on what to do with it.


Ghost Rig

Also Known As: The Devil's Tattoo

Director(s): Julian Kean

Writer(s): Sally Charlton (writer), Graeme Clapperton (writer), Bill Dale (writer), Julian Kean (writer)

Actor(s): Jamie Bamber, Bryan Carney, Heather Peace, Jaason Simmons, Noel Fitzpatrick, Juliet Diamond, Kerry Norton, David Rae

Duration: 90 mins


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