Wednesday, December 12, 2007

THE FERRYMAN: Gory Enough For Thrill-Seekers

THE FERRYMAN (horror thriller)

Cast: John Rhys Davies, Kerry Fox, Tamer Hassan, Craig Hall and Julian Arahanga
Director: Chris Graham
Time: 101 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? This horror thriller is roughly based on the Greek legend of the Ferryman Charon who demands payment for taking souls of the dead across the River Styx. The legend, however, is being 'bastardised' for the purpose of the movie - with a magic dagger thrown in as a device for its body-transfer plot.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? "The Ferryman" opens with a fishing boat being tossed about on a stormy sea at night. On board, the captain and his passenger are fighting, resulting in one of them being brutally hacked with a machete. Next, it is a sunny day at a New Zealand coast where a bunch of holidaymakers are getting ready for their five-day yacht trip to the Fiji islands. Cheery tour guide Suze (Kerry Fox) introduces her skipper hubby Dave (Tamer Hassan) to her guests: Chris (Craig Hall) and his demanding girlfriend Tate (Sally Stockwell), and Maori Zane (Julian Arahanga) and his fiancee Kathy (Amber Sainsbury), a former nurse who blames herself for the death of a young girl.

With the crew and passengers looking forward to partying during the trip, they all try to ignore the first signs of trouble: a severed hand found in the stomach of the shark they caught, a gloomy shroud of fog on the horizon - and a disturbing distress call from a boat nearby. Well, they could not simply ignore the call for help but when they respond, they manage to rescue a gruffy Greek man (John Rhys-Davies) whose presence on the boat soon turns menacing. Apparently, the Greek is carrying the spirit that owes the Ferryman his coin - and he will be moving from body to body to avoid paying up.

HITS & MISSES: The good news (for those who like blood and gore, that is) is that there are seven healthy bodies (including a dog) on board to facilitate the ensuing slasher-pic mayhem, but the bad news is that the plot doesn't make any sense. Director Chris Graham takes the classic plot of putting six people in a confined situation and then introducing a killer in their midst. He provides enough tension and eye candy shots, the usual relationship betrayal schtick, and lots of spurting blood to energise the screen.

As a slasher movie, this one works because of the cast and well-defined characters. We do not demand much from the B-list cast (except for Rhys-Davies) but they manage to surprise us with their performances. Stockwell and Hall provide enough sparkle and sparks to sustain our interest while Sainsbury has our sympathy as the nurse with a skeleton in her closet.

THE LOWDOWN: I particularly like the ending which provides a clever twist to the body-transfer plot and narrative hook for a sequel. If anything, it helps us to forget the senseless mayhem of a story.


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