FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jun 19, 2008

set a course for MURDER!

In case you're planning on buying me an extravagant vacation package as a gift sometime, let me state up front: I have absolutely less than zero desire to ever set foot on a cruise ship. If that's your idea of a swell getaway, then more power to ya; the notion of being trapped in a floating city with a bunch of vacationing strangers...and families...fills me with unbridled terror. Making small talk with people? Having to eat with them? Seriously, thinking about these scenarios give me more nightmares than The Exorcist and [REC] combined. My idea of a sweet vacation is car + camera, but hey, the world don't move to the beat of just one something something and all that. I'm even less inclined, however, to set foot on a luxury liner after viewing "the rental hit of 1983", 1980's Death Ship; I bet all you cruise lovers have never considered the possibility that the oceans are simply infested with haunted Nazi boats, have you? HAVE YOU? Well, consider yourselves duly warned.

George Kennedy (yes, George Kennedy; George Kennedy + "the rental hit of 1983" = best movie ever) is the cranky, bitter Captain Ashland. Ashland is on his last cruise ship cruise; the dude hates cruise ships almost as much as I do. He can't stand any of it- sailing in circles, making nice nice with the passengers, etc- and he can't wait until his tenure is over. It'll be over sooner than he thinks, though, because there's a big ol' boat on a collision course with the luxury liner!

During the "collision course" action we get our first indication as to exactly how awesome Death Ship is going to be: the luxury liner is shown at night, all lights-aglow, whilst the evil Nazi ship is shown barreling along in daylight. So...one ship tooling around during the day, the other at night, and they're headed right for one another. Impossible? You wish!

Ships go boom and a few passengers from the cruise ship manage to make it into...well, it's not exactly a lifeboat- it's more like a lifebigredbox.


Now, if you had been watching Death Ship with me, at this point you may have turned to me and said "How did all those people manage to make it into the same big red box? They were all in very different areas of the ship when the boats collided.", to which I would have replied "It's no surprise they all ended up in the same big red box, for they were the only characters who actually spoke before the boats crashed." Then we both would have started making out with the Death Ship DVD case.

Our survivors are but few: Capt Ashland, his XO (Richard Crenna!), the XO's family (which, unfortunately, features two children- this pretty much guarantees two fewer victims of the Nazi ghost ship), a weirdo religious-type lady who has a hard on for Ashland, and a young couple-for-the-cruise-only. Their big red box eventually floats by the anchored Nazi ship- it takes them a really long time to notice, for some reason- and, thinking they're being rescued, our plucky band of survivors climbs aboard the death ship, only to find no one aboard. That's right, the boat is empty! But...who's driving that shit? Who's moving the levers and turning on the gramophone and showing those Nazi propaganda films?

Why, it's the ship itself, running on pure Nazi hate!

Life isn't as peachy keen as you might think it is when you're trapped on a Nazi death ship. George Kennedy gets a l'il bit possessed by the ghosts, dons a vintage captain's uniform, and gets his homicidal Nazi on...

Our plucky survivors begin to die off in unpleasant ways, including death by 40-year-old poisoned peppermints and death by getting crushed with a bunch of gooey 40-year-old Nazi victims...

There's the obligatory shower of blood scene...

All in all, I have to say- I firmly stand by my reluctance to vacation aboard big boats.

Death Ship wasn't exactly what I expected. Long unavailable in the US and billed as "The Shining meets The Poseidon Adventure", it's one of those movies that wormed its way onto my "must see" list. The film is bandied about in cult film circles, although no one seems to actually like it. I dug it, although it's not bad enough to be good-bad or bad-bad, and it's not good enough to be...well, good. "Good" and "enjoyable", however, are not always mutually exclusive.

Bits and pieces are undeniably creepy; the hulking, rusted-out Nazi ship is imposing, the idea of the boat acting on its own is fairly effective (although levers moving unaided isn't as scary the 50,000th time you see it), and the general atmosphere is sinister. There's plenty to laugh at in Death Ship, but there's also plenty to admire. I don't think you need to seek it out as fervently as I did, but if you come across it somehow, give it a shot. You know, kind of like if you find yourself floating along in a big red box after you've abandoned a sinking luxury liner- if a giant creepy ship suddenly appears behind you, why not climb aboard?

23 comments:

Rural Juror said...

If only it delivered on promises made on the poster and tried to eat them all.

If I've said it once, I've said it millions of times: DO NOT PUT KIDS IN YOUR HORROR FILM UNLESS YOU HAVE THE BALLS TO KILL THEM.

Sean said...

Thanks for the review, Stacie!

Speaking of creepy methods of transportation (weak link), have you ever heard of a movie called Night Train to Terror, where God and Satan ride a train and decide the fates of a group of poorly breakdancing, poorly singing teens in the car next to them, all while watching 15-minute condensed versions of equally awful/amazing horror films?

Thank God (and Satan) for public domain:
http://www.flickbyflick.com/moviedetails.asp?e_newest=598

sir jorge said...

that poster reminds me a lot of "Ghost Ship", or rather, ghost ship reminds me a lot of that poster.

ragidtiga said...

well coincimental. I saw this in the main London Virgin mega last week. (or savvy or whatever they are right now). The cover caught my eye mainly cos of the similarities to Ghost Ship years later. This looks better and being 80s, I will strive to watch it when possible.

Note about Ghost Ship. I worked at a cinema when it was on for a measley week, and on one earley evening showing, we caught some rather dirty ugly couple shagging on the back row. Terrifying!

ARBOGAST said...

Ugly people have no right to shag in public - that's the domain of the comely.

Evol Kween said...

This movie scared the crap outta me when I was, like, 10. So I watched it repeatedly. Haven't seen it in years though....

Sarah said...

I, on the other hand, am OBSESSED with cruises. Really.

Pierce said...

What, you didn't think that a ship powered by the evil of Nazi's would have the ability to control the sun?

Clearly it would!

Wes Fierce said...

Who knew lifebigredboxes were such an effective yet economical alternative source of transportation to the nazi lycanthrope ghost S.S. ship of doom!? Of course the werewolf's are dead, but a death ship full of non-werewolf ghost's would only be HALF as interesting wouldnt it? I hope that lifebigredbox comes with big red silver nitrate infused proton pack life preservers!

Dances with Snails said...

A Doug McClure movie without Doug McClure? That reminds me... time for another viewing of Satan's Triangle.

Charles said...

Like Future-Kill, the best thing about this movie was the poster.

But I do love bad movies; especially bad movies starring George Kennedy. I saw this when it was on HBO waaaaaaaay back in the early 80s. I must try to locate it again.

Vince Liaguno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince Liaguno said...

Despite the lame tagline, I always thought this was one of the best horror movie posters to come out of the 80's. Great review, Stacie.

Dan Coyle said...

Well, Ghost Ship had the balls to kill the kid in it. I have a goofy affection for Ghost Ship, it's really silly and over the top in that charming Dark Castle way.

The Headless Werewolf said...

I have a guilty sort of love for GHOST SHIP, but it still doesn't deserve to sail in the same waters as DEATH SHIP. I loved the review!

Fred said...

Most folks don't know this, but DEATH SHIP began life as a Disney co-production. The two kids and the LifeBigRedBox are the only things remaining from Disney's contribution as the film was originally set on Disney's BigRedBoat. Imagine how much cooler DEATH SHIP would have been with its originally intended cast, including Fred MacMurray in George Kennedy's role, Dean Jones in Richard Crenna's part and a guy with an enormous Goofy head in the third male role!

Stacie Ponder said...

I've yet to see GHOST SHIP, but the poster for it definitely apes this one (to far less effect). I've kind of wanted to see GHOST SHIP, however, as I...sigh...have a bit if a weakness for Dark Castle schlock.

The tag line on the DEATH SHIP poster really makes no sense. The people who survived at the end seemed quite fine and thankful to be alive, actually. Poster yay, tagline nay.

Fred MacMurray possessed by evil Nazi spirits...I'd buy that for a dollar!

Bill Walsh said...

Ghost Ship wasn't bad. Although they always get panned, the Dark Castle stuff is usually not awful. The actors are usually B-listers slumming, the budgets and physical effects are decent. I generally enjoy them.

Old Dark Housekeeper said...

Ghost Ship is worth renting just for the opening sequence, from the Doris Day-styled credits on through something awful.

The rest of the flick is okay, although it gets bumped up a notch by not having a cast that looks like they wandered in from a primetime soap.

But it does feature a very sweet montage late in the game that explains things pretty nicely without anyone saying anything.

And an ending straight from an ABC Movie of the Week.

I think it's under-appreciated, rip-off poster and all. Definitely my favorite Dark Castle flick.

Um... actually, the only one I liked.

rob! said...

why oh why isn't Death Ship available on Netflix?

what do they have against George Kennedy??

Cindylover1969 said...

I so hated this movie.

Tip for film makers: Do not, I repeat, do not have the only likeable person in the whole movie be the first one to be killed off...

Dean Treadway said...

Yayyyyy! Death Ship. I love it. I should have known you'd be on the tip, Stacy!! I haven't seen this great film since my HBO 80s late-nights, but I was fascinated by its combination of badness and true scarifyingness. Doesn't Kate Reid get burned or something and her whole face gets puffed up. And Nick Mancuso falling into the Nazi remains is pretty great. I forgot if Saul Rubinek gets it...uh...in the neck, but he should have. Death to everyone on the Death Ship! And I remember Kennedy yelling quite a bit--a horror unto itself. Fun stuff!! Thanks, Stacy!

Anonymous said...

Hello!

Thanks for making a blog about this film! Well, it is known as a "trash" movie, but is (still) shocking, scary, creppy...It used to be in the TV in my country (Brazil), I used to love it (I was a teenager)! Nowadays it can be seen in YOUTUBE (still in TV in other countries?), and I prefer watching in the "native" language! I´d like to see the "set" of this film (photos, goofs)...

Thanx,
Rodrigo Rosa.

rodrigo.arte@yahoo.com.br