It’s a clever touch.
Blood Vessel is obviously a movie about vampires on board a ship, but the title also refers to the doomed crew’s containment effort to stop a terrible blood-borne infection from reaching port.
Nutshell: A veritable United Nations of lifeboat survivors from a torpedoed hospital ship are hopelessly adrift somewhere in the water during the waning days of World War II.
There’s two Australians (Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland), a whiny British spook (John Lloyd Fillingham), a taciturn Russian (Alex Cooke), and a pair of Americans: a useful black sailor (Lydell Jackson), and a surly Italian cook (Mark Diaco) from the mean streets of Central Casting.
The improbable company hops aboard a derelict German ship and spends about 45 minutes exploring its innards, discovering burned, mutilated sailors, priceless art treasures, and an anemic child (Ruby Isobell Hall).
I realize that seems like quite a bit of action, but when spread over the entirety of the running time (a tidy 93 minutes), the pace is almost geologic.
As written and directed by Australian special effects maestro Justin Dix, Blood Vessel is mostly stuff we’ve seen before, wrapping Nazis in occult robes for another spin around the block.
Despite a fondness for familiar tropes, Dix has some inspired moments. His depiction of an Old World vampire clan that does most of its damage from a distance by psychically manipulating the infected sailors, is a fresh idea.
The hands-off approach to slaughter however, somewhat dilutes the impact of these powerful undead beings, though the creature concept and monstrous makeup are on point.
It’s too bad the vampires don’t get more screen time. Instead we learn personal details about members of the doomed crew so that past tragedies can still inform the present—especially when bloodsuckers start messing with their heads.
And with all the bad accents flying around, we’re having enough trouble remembering the parade of nations on display. Fortunately, the Australian speaks German, and the Russian understands Romanian.
With a structural resemblance to Aliens, minus the tension, spendy effects, and brilliant cast, Blood Vessel is serviceable entertainment at best, which doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had.
There’s just not enough to go around.