Last year Overlord reminded us that horror movies involving Nazi’s getting seriously maimed and killed in a theatrical fashion is an incredibly fun time. Justin Dix’s maritime horror Blood Vessel also promised such thrills and kills when an allied ship is torpedoed, forcing the occupants−a mixed group of allied individuals including soldiers, officers and a nurse− to risk their lives climbing aboard a Nazi minesweeper that is ominously drifting by.
Judging by this set up it feels like the obvious outcome would be a Nazi warship loaded with Nazi zombies; either reanimated dead soldiers or genetically altered crazies due to some chemical on-board. However, Dix takes quite a different approach, running headfirst into full dark fantasy folklore with a surprising monster. The tendencies of this monster are made apparent by a dead body that is found on board covered in blood, that leads to the group assuming this wasn’t a death from starvation or basic injury.
Blood Vessel builds slowly up to its creature reveal, spending much of its first half weaving through tight corridors and small compartments of the ship. While the film evidently has a small budget, Dix seems consistent in using darkness to hide many sins. This is an unbelievably dim film− from a personal perspective, me and my dad have a specific brightness setting on the TV we use for horror films so we can see ‘all the creepy shit in the back’, and even with our glaring screen, this film allows you to see almost nothing of the surroundings. There’s no careful use of lanterns, candles or other mood lighting that would enhance a creepy atmosphere.
It should be a creepy atmosphere− the concept is there, but any element of terror that should be invoked by a deserted Nazi war ship in pitch black darkness is completely missing. The cast do the best with the tools they’re given but the sheer amount of characters to follow makes little room for development in the confined space they inhabit.
When the creatures are eventually revealed, their design borders on old-school bulky makeup effects but the voice work lent to these monsters is incredibly cool and omits a threatening dominance that commands every scene they’re in. Their backstory is also an intriguing premise, one that tries to root itself in real-life WWII Nazi history but twisted with a dark supernatural element, it was a nice addition, but part of me wishes that that had been the focus, not the cramped confines of a deep, dark ship.
Blood Vessel is certainly not a bad movie, it just lacks some flair that other films in the WWIII horror sub-genre have, sitting comfortably in the range of just plain average. With a concept that promises high stakes and a claustrophobic sense of danger, this creature feature ends up feeling definitively lost at sea.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here