I have a soft spot for claustrophobic horror films. The challenge with haunted settings or venturing into a vampire’s lair is the urge to shout at the screen, imploring the protagonists to simply leave. Yet, when you confine them, restricting exits and creating a claustrophobic atmosphere through location or circumstance, the tension intensifies, setting the stage for true horror. Despite its critical reception, Ghost Ship remains a horror movie I consistently revisit. Now, Blood Vessel is poised to join my list of go-to horror watches.
A Shudder Original, Blood Vessel is directed by Justin Dix and co-written by Dix and Jordan Prosser. The story unfolds somewhere in the North Atlantic in late 1945. The film kicks off with explanatory text, outlining how Nazi ships targeted any vessel in the Atlantic, particularly those carrying medical personnel and civilians. Stranded on a life raft after their hospital ship is torpedoed, a diverse group of survivors faces a dire situation. Devoid of food, water, and shelter, their last hope materializes in the form of an apparently abandoned German minesweeper drifting ominously towards them. The first half of the film centers on the survivors exploring the deserted ship and grappling with internal conflicts before discovering the bloodthirsty monsters onboard.
Starring Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, and Christopher Kirby, Blood Vessel can be aptly described as a war story intersecting with Dracula’s time on the Demeter. As we delve into the characters’ backgrounds, exploring their interactions and the harsh realities of war, the film offers surface-level commentary on WWII. However, when the coffin opens, the narrative takes a gory turn, unveiling a vampire character that breaks the mold.
Beyond its clever and punny title, Blood Vessel shines in its special effects and practical makeup, presenting a creature design that pays homage to Count Orlok while offering a unique twist. The vampire, with bat-wing-like ears, inhuman skin, and dark attire, is remarkably well-executed, and the moments of bloodletting bring originality to the film. Noteworthy is the film’s ability to blend nostalgic nods to Dracula and Nosferatu with visually distinctive and captivating elements.
While Blood Vessel features a straightforward narrative and predictable character types in its initial runtime, the latter half compensates with thrilling action sequences as the vampire prowls the darkened ship. Though the film’s darkness occasionally hampers visibility, the strategic use of greens and reds, coupled with the ever-enclosing setting, adds an intriguing dimension to the overall experience.