Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, Christopher Kirby, Alex Cooke, Mark Diaco
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… fitfully entertaining… an Aussie genre flick that swings for the fences, even if it occasionally falls short.
We don’t get enough horror movies set on boats. They’re such a great location – isolated, eerie and floating atop the bastard sea – and yet criminally underused in modern cinema. Some notable past examples include Deep Rising (1998), Ghost Ship (2002) and the criminally underrated Triangle (2009). More recently we’ve had, what, 2018’s too-wet-by-half The Meg? Not a sterling record, to be honest. Aussie flick Blood Vessel attempts to perform CPR on the nautical-set-genre flick and the result is fitfully entertaining.
Blood Vessel opens in late 1945, with WWII coming to a close, and a group of disparate characters set adrift at sea aboard a life raft. Just when their food supplies are about to run out they are apparently “saved” by a German minesweeper. However, once aboard, it soon becomes clear that they’d have been better off carking it in the ocean. Everyone on board the rather gothic-looking vessel is dead, save for a little girl who looks terribly hungry and speaks Romanian…
First things first, Blood Vessel’s setup is absolutely stellar. A period piece set aboard a Nazi ship with freaking vampires lobbing about the place? Shut up and take my money! Where the movie goes wrong, however, is in the scripting. The first 20 minutes of the film keeps shooting itself in the foot by having all of the protagonists bicker constantly in lieu of actual tension or character development. Even ignoring the dodgy accents, watching people snipe at one another like fussy toddlers is baffling when they’re literally crawling through an ominous, creepy ghost ship. Once the ship’s not-very-surprising mysteries start to get unravelled things improve, and while the script isn’t much chop, Justin Dix’s direction is assured and takes full advantage of the creepy old boat and its hungry occupants.
Acting wise, it’s a mixed bag, but Russian sniper Alexander Teplov (Alex Cooke) and Aussie digger Nathan Sinclair (Nathan Phillips) both give solid performances, even when their dialogue doesn’t match their respective talents. Kudos too should be given to Dix’s company Wicked of Oz for creating the superb prosthetics and special make-up effects that wouldn’t look out of place in a movie with a much higher budget. It’s just a pity that same level of craft and care didn’t go into a better script.
Blood Vessel is a far from perfect film, laboured with a dodgy script and some wooden performances. However, the premise, production values and cool monsters will likely keep most genre fans’ interest afloat and it’s nice to see an Aussie genre flick that swings for the fences, even if it occasionally falls short.