In a nutshell, Blood Vessel is a great little Aussie Vampire Flick. The second film directed by Justin Dix (Crawlspace is his first), Blood Vessel actually debuted at MonsterFest in November 2019 but has taken this long to be released on DVD. Dix is also the man behind Special FX studio Wicked Of Oz and has worked on many local & international productions such as Star Wars & The Babadook, so when Blood Vessel came in I knew I had to see it even if only for the visual effects.
Set at the end of WWII, Blood Vessel follows an ensemble of characters who are stranded on a lifeboat in the North Atlantic following the torpedoing of the hospital ship they were on. There’s an Australian Infantryman, English Nurse, two US Navy Cooks, English Intelligence Officer and a Russian foot soldier. Just when all hope of rescue and survival seems lost, a Nazi Warship appears and offers salvation. Upon boarding the ship they find it deserted save for a young Romanian girl who does her best to hide from them all. Further investigation brings discovery of crew members who have succumbed to violent and unknown fate, as well as a below deck room full of bounty stolen by the Nazis including two sarcophagi. Tempted by all the treasure, one of the Americans opens the coffins thereby awakening ancient vampires, with whom the ragtag group have to figure out how to battle on the restricted confines of the ship, and save themselves in the process.
The storyline of Blood Vessel isn’t going to win any originality prizes, although setting the film on a deserted Nazi ship is welcome addition to the vampire genre. As mentioned above it is the quality of the production -mainly the lighting and SFX – that really make this film fun to watch. Filmed on location aboard the HMAS Castlemaine, the cinematography makes great use of the cramped quarters, and the amount of work transforming the ship from a floating museum to a WWII replica is seen in the detail as the characters move around the ship. The lighting for the interior scenes are red and blue neon mix which adds to claustrophobia and general creepiness. For scenes where the real ship couldn’t be used – close ups, aerial shots etc – an incredibly detailed miniature model was made and filmed in pool within the studio and you cannot tell it isn’t a real, full size ship. But real fun is seeing the vampires, they are a nod to old school Dracula/Nosferatu style and are actual face mask and body make up, no computer FX at all. This gives the movie a great old school monster movie feel and makes the interactions between cast and monster all the more realistic. The actors are all great in their roles with Nathan Phillips as the Australian Soldier, Alyssa Sutherland as the nurse and Alex Cooke as the Russian as standouts.
Blood Vessel is a good, fun vampire movie with a few storytelling flaws that can be overlooked by the quality of the production and fantastic practical effects.
Director – Justin Dix
Writer – Justin Dix, Jordam Presser
Stars – Nathan Phillips, Robert Taylor, Alyssa Sutherland, Christopher Kirby and Alex Cooke
Rating – MA15+
Running Time – 95 mins
Genres – Horror , Australian, War, Thriller