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John’s Horror Corner: Death Ship (1980), definitely my least favorite haunted boat film.

July 2, 2020

MY CALL: I was hoping for something so bad it’s good. I just got bad… very bad and very boring. MORE MOVIES LIKE Death Ship: Looking for much better horror at sea? Try Uninvited (1988), Deep Rising (1998), Virus (1999), Ghost Ship (2002), Harbinger Down (2015) or Sea Fever (2019) for above water horrors; Underwater (2020), The Rift (1990), Deepstar Six (1989), Leviathan (1989) and, although all Sci-fi and no horror, I’d still strongly recommend The Abyss (1989) for submerged horrors; and Cold Skin (2017) or The Bay (2012) for horror with a view of the water.

Despite the incredibly similar poster used in Ghost Ship (2002), the internet has assured me the films are not related. And that’s a shame because I actually liked Ghost Ship (2002). Wish I could say the same about this…

Leading the last cruise of his lackluster career, Captain Ashland (George Kennedy; Demonwarp, Uninvited, The Terror Within, Just Before Dawn) finds some unwelcome excitement when an unmanned freighter catastrophically crashes into his cruise ship. A handful of cruise survivors on a raft find their way to the time-forgotten freighter only to discover the vessel is completely unmanned.

Shortly after boarding, this “death ship” decides to let us know it means murderous business. The cruise entertainer Jackie (Saul Rubinek; Hunters, Santa’s Slay) is dropped overboard and dies in the ship’s propeller… and this is shown to us in the most boring way possible… as in, not at all. Where’s the blood, the severed limbs, the thrashing? Oh, dear. This is not the gory B-movie for which I had hoped.

The menace of this ghostly autonomous ship is not very convincing. It behaves in convoluted ways, almost like a Shoots & Ladders™ manner of building to the first kill (which is disappointingly entirely off-screen and shows nothing of the results), and does things that seem very defeatable to kill its passengers. Essentially, ropes and hook-pulleys swing around and knock into people, and doors and levers move on their own. It’s beyond tame; it’s a bore.

Ashland is somehow possessed by the Nazi warship via German whispers of Nazi ghosts… and it’s still boring. This is the worst haunted ship ever. The most exciting scene in the movie is also the most gratuitous: a shower scene in which it rains blood on an entrapped woman.

I absolutely never want to see this again.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2020 10:31 am

    Excellent review. It was bad with no hope of being so bad it was good or so bad it was an awesome bad. I might get booed for this one, but two words tell me why I hated this movie and would have even if it was a better bad- Richard Crenna. Loved his little speech to the sheriff in First Blood, and he was tolerable in the second, but anything outside of that I’ve just never liked anything he was in.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      July 5, 2020 1:46 pm

      Much to my surprise, comments on Facebook suggest there are a lot of fans of this movie, praising it for atmospheric mastery (which I found to be basically absent). I fail to understand why anyone would like it, but I feel as if 30-40% of FB comments (out of maybe 100) support the film as being “great.” smh

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