Haunted house movies have a pretty standard formula. Group of people + haunted location = scares. That’s why it’s sometimes fun to change the location. Group of people + haunted space-ship = Event Horizon. Or, theoretically, Alien, since I have argued that Alien is a ghost story in space. I like 1980’s cheesefest, Death Ship, because I see it as a way to shake up the genre, especially at a time when slashers were becoming THE THING.
First, I love the poster artwork.
That tagline makes no sense but I still love it!
See how Ghost Ship tries to be like Death Ship but just can’t do it.
Don’t get me wrong, Ghost Ship is some cheesy fun, but it’s not as good as Death Ship.
So, the movie opens with a creepy black freighter and German voices. They’ve caught sight of a cruise ship. The freighter, aKA the Death Ship, rams the cruise ship. Everyone is killed except for Captain Ashland (George Kennedy!), Marshall (Richard Crenna!), Marshall’s wife, Margaret (Sally Ann Howes!), Nick (Nick Mancuso!), Sylvia (Kate Reid), Lori (Victoria Burgoyne), the Marshall family’s kids, and the ship comic, Jacki (Saul Rubinek.) They’re drifting on some wreckage when a mysterious black ship drops its ladder.
Oh yeah, it’s the Death Ship and it’s HON-GRAY for blood. The ship is pretty immediately evil. I’m not a ship person so I don’t know the terminology but a swingy thing with a hook picks Jackie up, throws him overboard, and drowns him.
Captain Ashland has thus far been a a total load so they leave him behind and decide to explore. Nothing bad can come of this. They find a mysterious projector room that mysteriously plays a mysterious and creepy movie.
Seriously, that movie looks like they studied with Mr. B Natural.
Meanwhile, Sylvia eats some mysterious candy that makes her skin turn into jerk chicken, so the Captain strangles her. I guess he’s feeling better. In fact, the ship is whispering to him in German, about how it’s his chance to have his own ship. He finds a Nazi ship-captain uniform and starts talking about how he’s going to take the ship to eternity.
Try and ignore the captions in the pictures, I saw the movie on a website that rhymes with Blue Cube and it was the only version available.
You find out that there’s tension between Captain Ashland and Marshall. Captain Ashland was fired from his position as cruise ship captain because he couldn’t deal with people or a crew and Marshall was his replacement.
Lori decides to take a refreshing shower. Only she gets showered in blood.
She faints and the Captain dumps her overboard.
Nick and Marshall find the ship’s secret Hitler room that comes with a coy glamour-shot of Hitler, and a torture room full of gold teeth.
Turns out that the Death Ship was a Nazi torture ship the just rode in circles around the Atlantic, torturing people. This kind of makes no sense since the Atlantic was quite choked with U-boats during World War Two, but this movie is too glorious for sense.
They lose Nick in some kind of underwater net full of corpses.
That’s when the Marshall family decides to quit this bitch. The movie ends with the death ship spotting another ship to ram, like someone running an insurance scam.
This movie is about 80% eighties cheese. Then there’s another 5% children’s shenanigans. But the 15% left is actually creepy. The torture room is quite creepy, even though you could fill something cute like a cupcake or a kitten with teeth and it would be deeply creepy. I lost it quite a bit when Nick fell into that pool of corpses.
Plus, the cast is pretty amazing, it’s like watching Circus of the Stars! Nick Mancuso was actually in the original Black Christmas, as the creeper.
My main complaint is that the music is pretty awful. It’s nice and creepy when the ship is playing 1940’s German war music or big band music, but the rest of the soundtrack sounds like that public domain music that they use in Corman flicks. Not very scary and it doesn’t really add anything to the movie. Other than that, this movie is cheesy fun.