GRIMMFEST 2019: Blood Vessel – movie review

Blood Vessel. Image credit: Courtesy of Grimmfest

I’ve been granted press accreditation for the 11th Grimmfest, the Manchester’s International Festival of Fantastic Film. So, I had the opportunity to watch and review a bunch of horror movies. This is my review of Blood Vessel (Australia, Justin Dix, horror).

Set at the end of WWII, Blood Vessel opens with a bunch of characters, each of them coming from different countries, on a raft adrift in the middle of the sea. When they spot a minesweeper ship with Nazi signs, they decide to risk it and seek help: however, the ship seems empty, which means the survivors can now eat canned food and take shelter in it. This seems too good to be true and, in fact, our main characters soon find out that something even more dangerous than Nazis is on the ship with them.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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Blood Vessel. Image credit, courtesy of Grimmfest
Blood Vessel – Alyssa Sutherland and Nathan Phillips. Image credit: Courtesy of Grimmfest

The second feature film from Justin Dix (whose previous movie, Crawlspace, I haven’t seen) benefits from a solid international cast: the only female character is played by Alyssa Sutherland, Christopher Kirby plays an American officer, Nathan Phillips (These Final Hours, 2013) is the resourceful Australian soldier, John Lloyd Fillingham’s role is that of a British spy. While formulaic and easily recognisable, these characters interact with each other very well: the dialogue between them is mostly well-written and features some needed moments of levity. The acting is, as I just said, quite solid all-around, but Nathan Phillips as Sinclair overshadows everyone else: he’s such an underrated actor who, in Blood Vessel, brings so much charisma and personality both to his role and to the picture.

The characters’ interaction is what keeps the viewer going throughout most of the movie, because there really isn’t much happening throughout the first hour of this 90-minute-long film. While the first act of Blood Vessel is mildly intriguing due to the mystery aspect and the chemistry between the leads, the second act feels like a 40-minute-long filler that only leads to the ending of the film.

Much like Doom (2005), the characters in Blood Vessel spend the first hour of the movie wondering around corridors, sneaking into various places on the ship, which really isn’t that engaging. Yet, the execution of the film doesn’t help either: the whole film is extremely dark (visually), filled with over-the-top sound effects and bogged down by jarring editing. These elements make it really hard to tell what’s going on and underline the fact that this movie was made for a very, very low-budget. The setting, inspired by the likes of Ghost Ship (2002) and Rec 4 – Apocalypse (2014), could’ve served as a great location for a scary movie, but it’s poorly crafted and filmed to the point of feeling fake and cheap.

Even the third and final act of this film, which should’ve been the saving grace of Blood Vessel, suffers from the same issues of the rest of the runtime: it’s confusing, badly executed and, at times, laughable. Admittedly, the last 30 minutes of Blood Vessel are more entertaining, because things start happening and the story moves forward, but even that part (heavily inspired by schlock like Van Helsing, 2004, for some reason) feels more like a TV-movie from the early 2000s.

Finally, the movie drops hints at gore and violence throughout, but at the end there is no graphic content to be found, since most violent scenes are shot through shaky-cam and poorly lit in a way that makes it impossible for the audience to see what’s going on.

In conclusion, Blood Vessel borrows its main concepts from a number of other movies (which, by the way, aren’t that great either) and doesn’t elevate them through any kind of interesting presentation. In fact, the execution is what turns this potentially entertaining scary flick into a forgettable and subpar movie. The acting – especially Phillips’ performance – is the only real redeeming quality here.

Blood Vessel                                     3/10

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