Ghost Rig (aka The Devil’s Tattoo, 2001) Movie Review

The British horror film “Ghost Rig”, essentially a Last Stand in a Haunted House movie set on an oil rig, immediately peaks my attention. Not because it’s an outstanding horror flick, but because of something much simpler. Originally released in 2001 as “The Devil’s Tattoo”, the film’s producers have managed to toss the movie back into the world as “Ghost Rig”, and hid its origins so well that they fooled even, where the movie is listed twice.

“Ghost Rig” offers something of a resurgence for Last Stand in a Haunted House movies by the British. “Rig” has a haunted oil rig, while “Deathwatch” gave us a haunted World War I trench, and “The Bunker” offered up a haunted World War II underground bunker. If this trend holds, I’m expecting a haunted Vietnam jungle and a haunted Falklands beach in a few years. Just kidding, of course. (Or am I?) Like the other two Haunted House movies, “Ghost Rig” gives us a large number of would-be victims — er, I mean characters — to fight a supernatural force. This is good news, because the introduction of a lot of characters means a higher bodycount. Hurray.

In “Ghost Rig”, a band of environmentalists led by the dedicated Vincent (Jaason Simmons) have arrived at an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. Their plan is to occupy the rig, which is slated for destruction and thus, according to our eco-nuts, ruin the ocean (I think). The plan immediately goes awry when they discover that the rig’s maintenance crew is not only missing, but also dead. Soon, the eco-nuts become trapped on the rig, as an evil force starts possessing their bodies one by one and goes on a killing spree.

With more than a slight nod to John Carpenter’s paranoia-infused “The Thing”, “Ghost Rig” also has a lot of “X-Files” flavoring to it. Meaning it’s never scary, and the action seems more routine than exciting. Like your average “X-Files” episode, it’s amazing how fast the characters get wise to the idea of an evil spirit running around possessing their fellow eco-nuts. Oh sure, there are bouts of bickering and more than one mention of “you’re nuts!”, but their transformation from doubters to believers is surprisingly very quick. Even Mulder would have a bit of a problem with such quick acceptance of the paranormal.

Unlike Carpenter’s “The Thing”, which offered up an atmosphere-rich story, “Ghost Rig” is hampered by director Julian Kean’s uninspired direction and cinematographer Jan Pester’s lazy camerawork. What are supposed to be the movie’s main draw — the paranoia of not knowing who the evil spirit is currently residing in — is directed with all the tension of going to a Michael Jackson concert and wondering if he’ll grab his crotch. Which is to say, “Ghost Rig” has nothing to offer in the way of tension, suspense, or even guilty pleasures. At best it’s by-the-numbers moviemaking.

The film’s lackluster execution is inspired by a dull screenplay that has no understanding of horror or suspense. British TV star Jamie Bamber leads the cast as Tom, an eco-nut who turns out to be a narc. Although why his character has infiltrated the greens is a bit of a mystery, considering his background as a Special Forces soldier. Is the British Government so concerned about white trustfund kids with too much time on their hands that they’ll sic a Special Forces commando on them? Seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Besides the improbable nature of the Tom character, the rest of the victims — er, characters — are also badly drawn. Jaason Simmons’ green, for example, seems perfectly willing to resort to violence at the point of a gun at a moment’s notice. Heather Peace’s Iona, playing a roughneck green, seems too eager to beat up people at the first opportunity. These guys aren’t exactly the type of eco-nuts that call themselves eco-nuts, if you know what I mean. They’re more like cardboard characters given the “eco-nut” characterization because that’s what the screenplay calls for.

“Ghost Rig” is not a very good horror film. It has a weak screenplay and the origin of the spirit seems to be an afterthought. Maybe the movie did take the time to explain the spirit’s origins, but for the life of me I just can’t seem to remember it — and I just watched this movie 10 minutes ago! A surprise ending might have saved this turkey, but by then I could have cared less.

Julian Kean (director)
CAST: Heather Peace …. Iona
Jaason Simmons …. Vincent
Noel Fitzpatrick …. Crawford
Kerry Norton …. Annie
Jamie Bamber …. Tom

Buy Ghost Rig on DVD