Sunday, November 29, 2020

BLOOD VESSEL (2019) (Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: MA 15+
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Justin Dix
Cast: Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, Christopher Kirby, Alex Cooke, Mark Diaco, John Lloyd Fillingham, Ruby Isobel Hall

At the tail end of WWII an Allied forces hospital ship is torpedoed by a German U-boat, setting a mixed bag of survivors adrift in the North Atlantic Ocean. Among the survivors we have an English nurse and a codebreaker, three Americans, an Australian infantryman, and a Russian foot soldier. Things seem dire for the rag-tag bunch, adrift on a raft for days and on the verge of starvation until a German minesweeper emerges from a fog bank and drifts towards them, offering at least a chance at survival, even if in the hands of the Nazis as POWs.

The survivors manage to board the ship and find it eerily abandoned with the exception of a young Romanian girl with a creepy little doll, who is apparently the sole inhabitant left on the ship. The young, feral girl definitely seems to me a nod to Newt from James Cameron's Aliens (1986), right down to the way she is found burrowed within the ship. Investigating the ship further they find the grisly, charred and decapitated corpses of the crew, some of whom look to have been inflicted with blood-infection. In the cargo holds down below they find it full of stolen ancient artifacts, bars of Nazi gold, and a pair of intricately carved sarcophagi containing what turns out to be a Romanian strigoi, vampires. It soon become clear that something awful happened on the ship, and that it was sabotaged by the Nazis to ensure that no one escaped.

As bloodsuckers are apt to do they do not stay "dead" for too long, though it does take the better part of an hour for them to finally emerge, and only after being unleashed by a greedy survivor looking to cash-in on the cache of Nazi gold in the cargo hold. The group of Allied forces survivors have become fractured after distrust, paranoia and ideological bickering sets in, which puts them at a disadvantage when must facing-off against this newfound bloodsucking enemy who are an even worse evil than the Nazis. 

Overall I thought the film was a blast, I loved the WWII era setting and it's got a great look that puts you in the right frame of mind with a specific time and place. The abandoned Nazi vessel sort of recalls the ghostly freighter from Death Ship (1980), and was shot on an actual WWII Bathurst-class corvette, and assisted by some very cool looking digital artistry that evokes the era. Not digital though are the vampire creature FX the film, they are bat-faced bloodsuckers who look like they were descended from Nosferatu (1922) with long talon-clawed fingers but even more bestial with bat-like facial features along the lines of The Night Flier (1997). The old school latex and rubber vampires look fantastic with their glowing yellow eyes, as do some gruesome wounds and kills seen throughout this action-packed horror hybrid. 

I thought the cast was quite good, all the whom convey what needed to be conveyed for this bloodsuckers-at-sea romp. There's not a lot of character development and everyone is appropriately one-dimensional for the most part, and some the dialogue rang a bit too modern to my ears, as do some questionable accents, but it wasn't ruinous, this is not the sort of film that needs a lot of character development. While starting of as a slow-burning ghost ship flick with plenty of atmosphere it then turn into more of an straight-up action-horror flick along the lines of From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), which means it offers more entertainment than actual fright, but I was alright with that.

Audio/Video: Blood Vessel (2019) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. We get a solid looking image with strong black levels and shadow detail which is good because most this happens under the cover of darkness so I appreciated that. Colors a bit muted by design with the night scenes bathed in a blue/green hue that renders nearly everything monochromatic, though occasionally primaries like reds and yellows have some nice punchiness. 
Audio comes by way of a solid English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track with optional English subtitles.   

Extras are plentiful and extensive, beginning with a pair of audio commentaries, the first with Director Justin Dix and cast
and then a second with the director and editor Dave Redman. Then onto a fifty-minute production diary and a half-hour 'On Board Blood Vessel - The Making of the Film'. These are extensive and well put together covering storyboarding, rehearsals, the script read, costume design and the actual filming, getting into the special effects and digital FX used on the film. This includes the participation of all the principle cast and crew and gets into the nitty gritty. My favorite stuff between these two making-of featurettes are seeing the molding and application of the special effects work and the artistry that went into it.

We also get a nine-minute interview with actor Troy Larkin who plays the vampire The Patriarch, plus a four-minute animations that were created to humor the cast and crew, some online promos and a trailer for the film. 

The single-disc release arrives in an oversized Blu-ray keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork, the reversible side featuring the same artwork minus the ratings logo, plus the back panel of the wrap features a cool illustrated poster artwork tat would have made a much better key artwork. The disc features the same artwork as the front panel of the wrap. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Justin Dix and Cast
- Audio Commentary with Director Justin Dix, Editor Dave Redman
- Blood Vessel - The Production Diary (49 min) 
- On Board Blood Vessel - The Making of the Film (29 min)
- Interview with a Vampire (9 min) 
- Nazi Newsreel (3 min) 
- Morale Boosting Animations (1 min) 
- Online Promos (4 min) 
- Trailer (2 min) 

Blood Vessel (2019) is a solid action-horror mash-up that  delivers plenty of gory special effects, some fantastic looking practical bloodsuckers and high caliber production value that give it a great look. It might be a bit light on substance but for a bloodsucking action-romp I enjoyed it quite a bit more than 30 Days of Night or any of the underwhelming Underworld series. 

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: