One horror sub-genre that I have ALWAYS appreciated is haunted ships. There is just something about a ship itself that provides a bit of eeriness to me, most likely the fact that the ship out on the ocean, with no immediate help around. This worsens when the ship is haunted, and a true nowhere-to-run scenario is in full effect thanks to the vast ocean around the ship. Haunted ship films come seldom these days, so I was pretty stoked when I came across this film, especially because it is from 1980. Unfortunately, this flick did not amount to anything special, but it did have its moments…which were as rare as these films are.
Death Ship follows a group of people who survive a destructive collision with their cruise ship and another unknown object. After floating adrift for a while the encounter an old ship and desperately make the mistake of boarding the ship. The survivors have no idea that they have boarded a Nazi torture ship that has been circling the seas for years, and has no plans of allowing them to ever make it home alive.
I really planned on enjoying this one, seriously. I love these haunted ship flicks, and throwing in the classic 80s feel and vibe I figured to myself that I could not go wrong, but I did. From the get-go I was hooked on this flick, and expected this to come off much like Amado De Ossorio’s The Ghost Galleon with some creepy ghosts or other manifested forms of horror, but this one did not go that route. Instead we get a ship that has a mind of its own and toys with the survivors, which I did find some joy in but not many scares. Had this film gone in the direction of some visible Nazi ghosts then the already creepy atmosphere of an old abandoned ship surrounded by an eternal view of water would have really been put to good use. I blame this on both writing and direction, but more on writing. Sure good direction could have turned this into a positive watch, but it is a lot to ask for with this film, and good writing could have easily handed any mediocre director a much easier plate to work with.
This storyline did have some promise, and I thought the idea of this not merely being a Nazi war ship but a Nazi torture ship was pretty sweet. We do not get too much torture action though, and most of the torture references were subliminal and did not lead to the survivors themselves being tortured outright. The rest of the storyline is nothing special, and consists of the surviving captain being manipulated by the ship into doing its bidding against the rest of the survivors. That element as well was not written or executed very well, and came off a bit as a bore to me. Oh well. I guess there is a reason why I had never heard of this film before giving it a watch.
Overall, this is a mediocre haunted ship film that suffers from both poor writing and direction. There were some elements in this film that could have made it a positive watch, but in the end all we get is a film you won’t remember a month later.
Visit John of the Dead’s blog for more!