DEATHSHIP (1980) Review

Directed by: Alvin Rakoff
Starring: George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso

The first thing I noticed about this movie was that the more recent Ghost Ship (2002) pretty much ripped off the poster idea and the basic plot outline in general. They've basically cut the word Death from the poster, replaced it with Ghost and modernized the look. I hated Ghost Ship, so I didn't really expect a lot from this film at all. But I was pleasantly surprised.

The movie starts out on a large cruise ship where a big party/ball is underway. Another large ship appears on the radar and they find themselves on a collision course, so they adjust their course and continue. But the other ship also changes direction, and in fact it seems that they are trying to ram them. Eventually they collide and everything goes all fucked up. Water gushes in and the cruise ship finally sinks.
Miraculously a handful of people including the captain (isn't that bastard supposed to go down with his ship?) manage to survive and find themselves floating in the middle of the ocean in a tiny raft. Before long a large black ship approaches with a ladder lowered so of course they decided to climb aboard, but it seems to be deserted.
Weird shit starts to happen and people start dying, and the captain falls under the ship's influence and goes crazy.
Obviously the remaining survivors have to escape before they become the latest victims of the DEATHSHIP.

Pretty simple storyline really, and we've seen plenty of variations on it including not only Ghost Ship but also movies like Event Horizon. Since it takes place at sea and not in space, this is closer to the former but fortunately it's about 10 times better. At least. The one thing I enjoyed immensely was the fact that they don't try too hard to explain why the ship is haunted, by using some sort of lame backstory. You do get an idea though when it is revealed that the ship is a former Nazi interrogation boat, but it's still pretty vague and that suits me just fine.
Another aspect I liked was that the small group of survivors are all previously acquainted with each other in some way, which might not seem very likely but it does help to give them all some sort of emotional attachment to each other.
There isn't really a lot of gore, but the discovery of a torture chamber does reveal some pretty nasty looking corpses and there is a lot of blood thanks to one particular scene.
As for the acting it's actually not bad at all and George Kennedy in particular does a great job as the crazy/possessed captain. There were a pair of kids who were extremely annoying and I kept hoping that they would just fucking die already, but it surely wasn't enough to put me off the film.
I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed this movie. There was plenty of action and tense moments to keep you watching and the whole atmosphere of the ship was kind of eerie. This is definitely something I would recommend and I would have no problems with watching it again.


  1. George Harrison??? Hopefully he worked on the soundtrack too...

    Nick Mancuso is the man, though. STINGRAY!

  2. Oh wow, I don't know why I wrote Harrison. It's George Kennedy haha, thanks for pointing that out.