The Ferryman (2007)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Chris Graham
Writers Nick Ward
Starring John Rhys-Davies, Kerry Fox, Sally Stockwall, Amber Sainsbury, Tamer Hassen, Craig Hall, Julian Arahanga
Genre Psycho
Tagline A life vest won't save your soul
Country

Review

“Well it ain't the freaking love boat, that's for sure” - Big Dave

Note: Review copy was the R1 DVD, an R4 option is available.

Big Dave and his partner Suze run a charter yacht service out of New Zealand. They take on two couples on a six day cruise to Fiji. One couple are using the cruise as an excuse to get over a recent traumatic event, while the other American couple are poised to get engaged, if he wants to commit to a blonde airhead. On the second morning out they receive a distress signal and enter a bank of fog to offer assistance if required. Zane and Chris, the male contingent of the charter, row over to an apparent abandon trawler they run across, and rescue what appears to be the only surviving crew member, a guy simply known as “The Greek”.

It's not long till the Greek proves to be anything but happy at his rescue as he drives a dagger into Zane's chest. Big Dave throws the Greek overboard, and with everyone panicking, the wound in Zane's chest mysteriously vanishes. With the supernatural entering the equation in a sort of The Hidden (1987) fashion, the death toll mounts, all because someone doesn't want to pay the Ferryman. Queue that classic rock number. Ready to take a sea journey and see what might be in the fog?

Nick Ward's script is like a remake of a Greek myth, as opposed to a remake of another movie, with all sorts of references to ancient Greek mythology going down, that allows for even the most reading challenged viewer to pick up on. The name of the yacht our victims set sail on is Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and festivity, for example. What Ward does is mix the concept of The Ferryman, Charon who ferries the newly dead across the river Styx and receives a coin in payment, from Greek mythology, with a bit of body jumping hijinks, and rounds things out with an insanely brilliant blood bath at sea to get even the most jaded horror fan sitting up and taking notice. What is immediately questionably from a purely logical stand point is why “The Greek” must body jump to avoid the Ferryman when he goes to length to ensure he doesn't have any loose change in his pockets! No payment, no ferry across the Mersey Styx, problem solved next issue. But what the hey, if we didn't have the body jumping shenanigans then we wouldn't have half the blood drenched fun we get to wallow in as the movie dances to a murderous tune. Yeap folks Ward went buck nekkid crazy in getting the claret spraying around the cabins of the ill fated Dionysus.

For Kiwis, and quite possibly Aussies, Nick Ward has a subtle style of humour running through the script that may not be apparent to other viewers. I certainly got a giggle out of some of the lines of dialogue and use of the excellent soundtrack. Be warned it doesn't come in neon flashing lights with a ka-boom-tish to highlight, but it permutates just below the surface.

Director Chris Graham has a number of things happening that point to a Director with more than a few skills in the dark arts. We go from wide angled shots of the yacht at sea, to claustrophobic fog as things close in on the decks, till finally we are down in small cabins and on what appears to be an ever smaller deck space. Graham takes the external and focuses it down to the here and now as he thrusts the viewer into the action. In certain scenes we simply can't escape the carnage as Graham uses his principle location, the yacht, to effectively drive home the horror he has unleashed. There's an unyielding nature to what Graham does that has the viewer perhaps wanting to back-foot to put some distance between themselves and what they are seeing on the screen. If I had to draw a parallel it would be to the narrow corridors of the Nostromo in Ridley Scott's seminal Alien (1979).

The movie is tight, both from a writing and an actual filming point of view. Nothing is wasted with ideas being used to good effect and not just thrown in on a whim. Thus the ex-nurse, who has a phobia about treating people following a wrong decision in her past, is increasingly called upon to treat not only her fellow crew members but the situation they find themselves in as well. The Yank couple who are on the verge of open warfare, declare it and go at each other as the full force of the supernatural descends like a sledgehammer. Talk about your walking a mile in the other person's shoes! Director Graham doesn't leave a single idea hanging, every scene has meaning, though some don't become apparent till late in the movie.

Graham starts the movie on the slow burn, we get to know the individual characters most of whom we will like, but hits warp factor in the second and third blocks as things charge into the dark woods at an increasing momentum. The Director has a natural feel for pace, with the film not lagging at any stage. Once we've revved up for some blood letting, Graham throws it into top gear and unleashes. Not entirely sure the ending worked, but it does leave infinite possibilities for a sequel.

Running out of room here. For Kiwis the soundtrack rocks out, who's going to complain about a movie that includes the talents of Shihad, Dragon, Split Enz, The Swingers, Peking Man, and Tim Finn, to name a few. Graham uses his music to good advantage highlighting some scenes and underlying others with a cool juxtaposition thing going down.

I watched The Ferryman a couple of times before reviewing in order to get the full impact of what Director Graham had going down here, and was definitely more impressed on a second viewing. The movie is clever, works off it's basic premise like a brought one, and delivers one cool supernatural ride that had me grinning as the end credits came up. Come on, they built an entire soundset to contain a replica of the yacht in a couple of feet of water, that's not something we do everyday Downunder. Perhaps the movie will be a tad subtle for the normal horror fan, Graham is respecting his audience here and delivers a solid expierence.

If after a second opinion or more details on The Ferryman then check out NZ Videos, the leading site on the net for New Zealand movies.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Solid nautical horror flick that works to it's strengths