It always feels like a bit of an odd statement, but I have always been interested in occultism tied to the Nazi party, and what potential world of horrors it could have opened if there was some actual validity to the dark arts (if there is I have yet to see proof, but please don’t curse me none the less). It feels odd because the actual horrors of war is something I have not experienced and is probably much worse than vampires on a boat, the subject of Blood Vessel. Regardless of my own awkwardness in approaching the subject of war themed horror, I was really excited to hop on board and see what the film had to offer.
What Is It?
The war is over, but for an unlucky group, of mixed nationalities and rank, find themselves on a life raft after the ship returning them home is sunk. Facing a cold death out at sea, the crew is elated to come across a ship even if it is an enemy vessel. Unfortunately for them, the ship is all but abandoned with only corpses and a mysterious young girl on board. This young girl though knows of a greater secret, there are monster on board and they are hungry!
What I Liked About It?
The film offers up a motley crew of survivors from various backgrounds, and while their differences are not explored in depth, the sense of nationality with each and their own role in the war plays off of each other in a an engaging way. To speak to this strength, the film sees some great performances as the actors balance drama and trying to play into stereotypes without making a mockery of their roles. That is not to say it exceeds as a ‘drama’, the film is undeniably b-horror, the extra care taken with each persona and back story is well done. A wonderful approach when even those who die pretty quick offer a good insight into the character.
The set design is well executed and you do get the feeling the ship has been lived on only to be quickly abandoned in frantic horror. The lighting plays a key part in this as it is able to get over the dreaded murky blue tint by adding some flashes of red to give the film a wonderful horror aesthetic.
Finally and probably most importantly, the creature design in the film is impactful as the three vampires on board are both imposing and frightening. The main baddy feels like the main baddy as he easily towers over everyone else and the prosthetic work is well executed. This attention to detail extends to most parts of the production as props, effects and gore are high quality.
Overall, the production handles elements of suspense, horror and drama in good measure ensuring there is not a dull moment to be had.
What I Did Not Like About It?
The actual build-up to the vampires is rather slow, and although the design is solid their actions are kind of muted. With such a looming figure in the main vampire, his modus-operandi is to infect and control. He is not so much a hands on type of guy. It does make for some interesting moments and feeds into the paranoia of the crew, but some variety would have been nice. He looks like someone who could punch through a person, but yet he never does.
The slow build also ends up killing a few of the crew members off by other means before the big reveal of the ancient ‘vampyre’. This is a bit of a let down given the film opens with a literal boatload full of potential fodder.
Blood Vessel offers up a bloody good time with some solid creature design and good atmosphere. Fans of b-cinema who like a bit of extra depth to a production should really enjoy this film. To a degree, the production has the feel of a Full Moon Production, albeit it more the golden era than the endless crappy remake hell they exist in now. ( I Love and hate you in equal measures Full Moon, please feel free to keep making Killjoy films)
I also fell in love with the characters, particularly; Nathan Philips as the strong willed Australian POW survivor, the gorgeous Alyssa Sutherland as the British medic who is dealing with a profound loss, and Alex Cooke as the battle hardened soviet solider. All around the film is really well acted.
Ultimately, Blood Vessel lands somewhere in the middle failing to reach its full potential. There is still a lot to love in this Australian film, and with it being recently added to Shudder it can certainly make for a good movie night with friends or riding solo.
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