Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Blood Vessel – review

Director: Justin Dix

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

Though released in 2019, this hit VoD in 2020 hot on the heels of Subferatu. Unlike the former this is set at the end of the war (rather than displaced in time) and is played seriously, whereas Subferatu is played entirely for laughs. The connection, therefore, is the idea that both take place on Nazi ocean-bound weapons of war.

In fact, I was struck how this owed some of its chops to Death Ship, which itself was a Naziploitation flick with a ragtag set of survivors adrift at sea and coming face to face with horror rather than rescue. Again, there is a difference, in that whilst this was on a budget it clearly aspired to be more than the product of its limitations.

in the raft
So, it starts with scenes of a life raft containing allied survivors of an attack. Intertitles tell us that the close to defeated, Nazi forces took up a position of attacking merchant and hospital vessels and survivors in order to demoralise their enemies. Then we meet our survivors. There are American ship cooks Lydell Jackson (Christopher Kirby, Queen of the Damned, The matrix Reloaded, Salem’s Lot, Daybreakers & Preacher) and Jimmy Bigelow (Mark Diaco), Russian sniper Alexander Teplov (Alex Cooke, also Preacher), Aussie soldier Nathan Sinclair (Nathan Phillips), British Intelligence officer Gerard Faraday (John Lloyd Fillingham), British nurse Jane Prescott (Alyssa Sutherland) and the Captain, Malone (Robert Taylor). They are adrift and rations are low.

the ship approaches
At night a ship comes out of the fog; it is German but it seems unmanned – though Sinclair seems to see a girl (Ruby Isobel Hall) on the prow, though he doesn’t mention it. The ship is passing them and potshots are taken, looking to hit metal cabling. Teplov, revealing for the first time that he can speak English, takes the gun and hits the cable, causing it to sheer and offering them a purchase. They pull themselves alongside and start to climb up a rope ladder – Faraday struggling as he has an arm in a sling. The last to climb is the Captain, but the rope ladder breaks and he falls, and subsequently he is torn apart by the propeller

veins on wall
So, as a storm suddenly starts up, they start to investigate the ship. They discover that Faraday had hidden rations in his sling and, when the scouting party search the (red glowing) bridge they find that the wheel is chained and discover a body. The body was interesting as his veins seemed to be growing out onto the wall of the bridge. Except, whilst it looked interesting, it wasn’t then explored as a concept. They find more bodies, burnt (and one with fangs) and a little girl, Mya (who was the one stood on the prow). At first she seems scared and feral – she bites Jane – but then goes with them. She speaks a language they don’t understand (the word for family is recognisable though), though Teplov knows it is Romanian.

the patriarch
So, on the vessel (now wearing Nazi uniforms, as their clothes were soaked) they find occult writings and also a store room where there is a fearful German (who ends up getting killed after killing one of them) and a box of Nazi gold plus what we would describe as a deluxe vampire killing kit. There are also ornate coffins, chained and stored in crates; a greedy survivor opens one – revealing a bat faced vampire, credited as the patriarch (Troy Larkin) and named as strigoï by Teplov. We get the lore that they can read minds and are shapeshifters, a bite turns and a mirror shows their true form. The coffin contains his wife (Vivienne Perry) and, of course, they are the family Mia mentioned.

Jane and Sinclair
The film does much with little. The ship is nicely claustrophobic, and there are some nice (if broad brush) characters. When we see the Patriarch in the first instance, he seems quite rubber-faced but the effect works better once he is up and animated. Most of the performances work within their broad-brush stereotypes – with John Lloyd Fillingham almost channelling Donald Pleasence, and Sinclair and Teplov proving two of the most engaging of the characters. The film doesn’t do much that you wouldn’t expect but it is a solid watch. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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