Blood Vessel

BLOOD VESSEL. Australia, 2019 Starring Nathan Philips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, Christopher Kirby, Alex Cooke, Mark Diaco, John Lloyd Filling ham, Troy Larkin, Vivienne Perry, Ruby Isobel Hall. Directed by Justin Dix. 93 minutes. No rating available,

The title is nicely evocative for a film about a ghost ship. It has been written, produced and directed by Justin Dix, his expertise has been in special effects, especially for his company (again an evocative title) Wicked of Oz Studios, Melbourne-based where Blood Vessel was shot.

So, audience expectation is for a horror film. But horror film suggests different expectations from different audiences. For diehard Monsterfests fans who want instant blood and gore, even in the opening credits, unless it is immediately gory, the film is seen as a failure. Which, is what happened to some of the commentors on this film (recommending only the second half). which is a pity, not doing justice to the establishing of the scene, introducing the characters, a sense of mystery, evocative moments, with the action moving credibly towards the blood and gore in the final 30 minutes.

For this reviewer, the first hour is particularly interesting. We are immediately informed that the action takes place towards the end of World War II. A group of men, and one woman, are adrift in a lifeboat in the North Atlantic, two British, a Russian, two Americans (one sympathetic, African-American, the other of noxious), an English woman, an Australian soldier. They see the German ship coming towards them in the night. It is a mysterious ship, as they discover dead members of the crew, others vanished.

Apart from the Marie Celeste atmosphere, the first part of the film has a sense of realism, the challenge to each of the characters as to how they are to survive, to make contact, to be rescued. The Australian is a born leader. The Russian is a supportive ally. One of the Americans is surly and presumptuous. And the British woman is a dignified British mother. The Englishman, a code breaker for the British government, is rather weasley (in appearance, glasses and stature, reminding horror fans of Donald Pleasance).

Looking at aspects of the cargo, there is more than suspicion, especially in the discovery of gold bars which might explain what happened to the ship. But there are also evocative suggestions of middle European superstitions, carvings, contents of boxes, mysterious books.

So, most audiences, except for those who have been impatiently longing for the blood and gore) can be satisfied with a mysterious drama.

Spoiler alerts, and alerts to those who might find blood and gore too hard to watch, it does move into demonic presence, overtones of Transylvanian vampirism, as well as echoes of And Then There Were None. And a grimly disturbing ending.

Certainly one of the better films of its genre. (And, impressively made and post-produced in Australia.)

Umbrella films                                      Screening at MIFF online, then cinema release

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.


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