Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Death Ship (1980) Review:

By the last half of 20th century film making, horror genre pictures had solidified themselves in pop culture. Plus, the horror genre began splitting off into various sub-genres like the "slasher" and "monster" flicks. But when it came to out at sea related adventures, it's hard to say whether there was a lot of them around yet that delved into the horror genre. The biggest noticeable boom in this particular kind of story / setting would be seen later with pictures like Leviathan (1989), Deep Star Six (1989), Deep Rising (1998), Virus (1999) and Ghost Ship (2002). But for Death Ship (1980), it seemed like this was the grandpap of all of them. It is by no means a true gem but it at least has certain aspects that should be respected for.

Hey look, it's they raised the Titanic!
After being shipwrecked and stranded in the ocean, a group of survivors from the wreck discover an abandoned rusty derelict. Once on board, they begin to realize that the ship is running with no crew. Odd. There's more than meets the eye to this ship that’s for sure. Apart of the survivors are George Kennedy as Capt. Ashland, his second in command Trevor Marshall (Richard Crenna - with a full beard) and his wife (Sally Ann Howes - from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)) and kids. Although these actors are good choices, their performances aren't among anything moving. Other than these actors, the last bit of the cast is highly forgettable. Partially this is due to the writing, which addresses some motivations, like the Captain's but not all of them, and this isn't the only flaw.

The ship that which these survivors take refuge on has supernatural powers. It can close its own doors, control its own chains, pump its engines, steer itself and even is accompanied by ghostly voices. Nice! So how did it get these powers? Was it cursed? Don't know, a topic that is never touched on sadly. There is an explanation to what it thrives on but that still doesn't explain its current condition. But going back to the actual ship itself, is something to behold. The production design by Chris Burke and cinematography by René Verzier blend evenly. The look of this ship is as grungy and weather worn as they come. Not to mention all of those cobwebs all over the place. Although the back-story to the ship is not expanded upon, the mystery of not knowing does make it entertaining to a point.

 photo ship03.png
That beard though!
The camerawork is also done differently. To simulate that of being on a boat, the camera sways making it unleveled with square surfaces. It can get a bit nauseating at times but it feels realistic. The practical effects are nice too. All the ship’s eerie movements and creaky noises help make the vessel feel that much more bizarre. The horror aspect to the film is probably the weakest though. None of it was scary, it was just unsettling (and that's ok). Adding to that unsettling feeling is Ivor Slaney's score, which incorporates classical sounding orchestral tones and some synth. The best theme was the tune that plays for the ship's engine pistons where horns crescendo and decrescendo for the swinging movement every time they pump. Too bad the complete score isn't available. Horror fans may find something to like about, but I don't guarantee a whole lot.

It has a few respectable cast members but their characters' are not developed fully. However, the ship's production value, camera work, music and all around eerie surrounding is enough to make it somewhat likable.

Points Earned --> 5:10

No comments:

Post a Comment