The setting: the wide-open ocean. A group of tourist couples on board a yacht find their vacation plans altered in perverse and lethal ways when they rescue a sickly middle-aged man (John Rhys Davies) discovered alone on a ruined vessel. He is dying, and his crew are dead. Has he cheated death? He has indeed. Many times. More times, in fact, than a human being can spend on this earth. Through the use of an ancient “shifting blade,” this man is able abandon his body once it grows sick or frail, and trade physical spaces with an unsuspecting victim, within whom he will continue to live. The victims in turn, get the old, decrepit body to finish their years in. Now on board the yacht, the man has a number of healthy bodies to choose from. He takes one, but due to the intimacy of the environment, circumstances explode and force him to switch over into another. This makes all hell break loose, cornering the man into taking some very drastic measures to ensure his parasitic survival.
On paper, The Ferryman might sound like The Hidden meets Dead Calm. Not quite. Nor is its core power derived from the expected elements. While the film certainly is intense, The Ferryman hurtles a distinctively heavy anchor through its audience by way of strong characters and particularly, the extraordinary personal hells it puts them through. The entity doesn’t pragmatically dispatch victims. For reasons left eerily unexplained, he takes cruel joy in bringing forth total emotional devastation in those he will destroy. Through numerous setpieces of psychological brutality, usually followed by enormous physical violence, The Ferryman becomes a film that is very much about human evil and the corruption –- nay, the obliteration -- of trust. There is at least once setpiece that will make the entire room sink in shock. It’s an auspicious genre film debut for director Chris Graham, who previously made the acclaimed relationship comedy Samoan Wedding. His direction takes starkly unconventional turns and his cast, particularly Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave), is uniformly excellent. The body-switching motif is given fresh resonance by staging it on an isolated boat with a small group of people: this quickly makes things get VERY interesting. Confusion and horror reign, the good are made to feel scorn for actions not theirs and innocents suffer at the terrified hands of innocents. It’s a surprisingly upsetting experience, one that resonates well beyond the surface simplicity of its plot.
Director: Chris Graham
Screenplay: Matthew Metcalfe, Nick Ward
Cast: John Rhys-Davies
Producers: Paul Brett, Richard Fletcher, Alan Harris, Matthew Metcalfe, Tim Smith
Distributor: First Look Features