I’m a sucker for tense horror flicks that make you feel trapped. The frustrating thing about haunting movies or encounters in a vampire’s lair is the urge to scream at the screen, begging the characters to just leave. But when you close off their exits, trapping them in a tight space or situation, that’s when the tension skyrockets and the real horror sets in. That’s why, despite its critical reception, “Ghost Ship” is a horror film I keep revisiting. And now, “Blood Vessel” is joining my list of must-watch horrors.
A Shudder Original, “Blood Vessel,” helmed by Justin Dix and co-written by Dix and Jordan Prosser, unfolds somewhere in the North Atlantic in late 1945. The movie kicks off with text explaining how Nazi ships targeted any vessel, particularly those carrying medical personnel and civilians. This background sets the scene for a group stranded on a life raft after their hospital ship gets torpedoed. Deprived of food, water, and shelter, their chances seem bleak until an apparently abandoned German minesweeper drifts their way, offering a slim shot at survival. A diverse group, the film’s first half delves into the survivors’ exploration of the empty ship and their interpersonal conflicts, before they stumble upon bloodthirsty monsters lurking on board.
Featuring Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, and Christopher Kirby, “Blood Vessel” feels like a war story entwined with Dracula’s stint on the Demeter. As the characters’ backgrounds unfold, offering insights into their dynamics and wartime realities, the film lightly touches on WWII themes. However, once the coffin cracks open, the movie plunges into a relentless, gory spree featuring a vampire unlike any seen before.
What sets “Blood Vessel” apart—aside from its clever name—is its exceptional special effects and practical makeup, crafting a creature reminiscent of Count Orlok yet uniquely different. Sporting bat-like ears, otherworldly skin, and a dark attire, the vampire in the box is remarkably executed, and the instances of bloodshed are fresh and exclusive to this film. Originality matters here because vampire movies, even for die-hard fans like myself, often fall into repetitive tropes with their vampiric acts and creature designs. This film pays homage to Dracula and Nosferatu while forging its own visually captivating path.
The movie boasts a straightforward narrative and some foreseeable character archetypes initially, but the latter part more than compensates with thrilling action sequences as the vampire prowls the darkened vessel. Although the film occasionally veers into almost-impenetrable darkness, the strategic use of greens and reds, coupled with the constantly encroaching setting, keeps the tension palpable around our characters.