Friday, February 22, 2008

The Ferryman (2007)

I wasn’t expecting much out of The Ferryman, yet another direct to DVD horror flick, but I was secretly hoping it would be a diamond in the rough that would surprise me…It did seem to have a cool concept and I figured this New Zealand film might have a fresh, new perspective on the horror genre.

The mythology of the ferryman on which the film is based originated in ancient Greece. The ferryman, or Charon as he was called in ancient Greek mythology, was responsible for transporting deceased souls from the banks of the river Styx to the underworld, as long as they paid their fare. The practice of placing gold coins on the deceased eyelids, so they would have enough money to pay the ferryman for passage to the underworld, stems from this legend. It is said that if you don’t have the proper fare to pass, you are doomed to wander the banks of the Styx, neither in the real world nor in the afterworld.

The Ferryman takes a slightly different spin on the classic tale, making the ferryman more into a figure like Death, who is responsible for making sure all souls are brought to the underworld and that no one cheats death. It was refreshing to see a horror film rooted in classic mythology, but The Ferryman just didn’t go far enough with its story and just ended up being a pretty lackluster, disappointing film.

Two couples, locals Zane (Julian Arahanga) and Kathy (Amber Sainsbury) and Americans Tate (Sally Stockwell) and Chris (Craig Hall) decide to take an “adventure cruise” on a private yacht owned by married couple Dave (Tamer Hassan) and Suze (Kerry Fox). Just as everyone is getting friendly and starting to enjoy themselves, a distress call comes in. Dave and Suze decide to answer it and find an abandoned boat surrounded by thick fog. They rescue the last remaining survivor (John Rhys-Davies), but soon regret ever answering the distress call. People start getting stabbed and murdered by an evil entity who keeps jumping from body to body, trying to cheat death and avoid the ferryman. As more and more bodies go overboard, the remaining survivors must figure out how to defeat the evil presence…or wind up as fish food.

One thing I appreciated about The Ferryman is that it tried to be different. It didn’t try to be a gory slasher and certainly didn’t fall into the category of the so-called “torture porn” polluting the horror landscape these days, but tried something a little different. While I can appreciate its intentions, the end result just wasn’t good enough.

There is so much that can be culled from Greek mythology and used in horror films, and while The Ferryman tried using bits and pieces of lore, it just wasn’t cohesive or comprehensive enough with the treatment of its story. There were also odds and ends that felt rather forced and set up just to serve the outcome of the story (like the subplot about the little girl). The story itself moved rather slow and felt repetitive. Stabbing someone with a knife gets rather old after the first few times you’ve seen it. It also didn’t help that the “final girl” spent about half the movie unconscious.

While the story tended to get bogged down and boring, I must say that the acting was pretty well-done. I especially liked how drastically the characters changed after they were “invaded” by the evil spirit. The best performance came from Craig Hall when he was in this “possessed” state. He was maniacally brilliant! It also helped that you really felt for the characters when they were being brutalized (though the character development was shallow and stereotypical at best).

Still, despite the decent performances, the film has more problems than perks. One major bother is that it played less like a horror movie and more like a thriller. You knew where the evil presence was most of the time, so there was no possibility for tension or suspense. The scare tactic that was used was that these survivors had no where to run from this evil entity (oh ya, and there yacht was suddenly out of gas and conveniently couldn’t be operated), but it just didn’t work to make me feel frightened. Sad to say, there weren’t even any creepy moments – when we finally do get to see the ferryman, he looks more like the Creature from the Black Lagoon dripping in green algae that a deathly specter.

While I wouldn’t call The Ferryman a “bad” movie, it lacks a certain spark to make it anything more than lackluster. Might be good for a rental if you’ve got nothing but a few gold coins lying about…but you might want to save those for something other than The Ferryman.

Available from Amazon!

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