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Film / Death Ship

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"This ship needs blood, Marshall."
Captain Ashland

Death Ship is a 1980 British/Canadian horror film, directed by Alvin Rakoff (City on Fire) and starring George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Sally Ann Howes, Nick Mancuso, Victoria Burgoyne, Kate Reid, and Saul Rubinek.

As the film opens, the prickly Captain Ashland (Kennedy) is leading his cruise ship on his final voyage, attended by his replacement Trevor Marshall (Crenna), who has brought along his family. Unknown to Ashland and his passengers, a mysterious black freighter is on a collision course. Despite the crew's best efforts, the two vessels collide and the cruise ship is lost with all hands, save for seven survivors. When they reach the freighter, the survivors discover they have a much worse fate in store for them - the ship is a former Nazi POW transport with a mind of its own. As it sails to an unknown destination, the survivors realize that something is intent on destroying them in the most horrifying ways possible...

Not to be confused with Ghost Ship, even though both films' plots are based around the trope of the same name. Nor should it be confused with the similarly-titled Twilight Zone episode.

This ship needs tropes, Marshall:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: The ship's entertainer Jackie, played by Saul Rubinek. Which, given the Death Ship's Nazi affiliation, may explain why he is the first survivor to die.
  • Belly Dancer: Lori is dressed as a bellydancer on a cruiser.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Marshall and his family manage to escape the Death Ship and are eventually found by the Coast Guard, but Captain Ashland and all the other survivors are dead, and Marshall and his family will likely be scarred for life mentally as a result of their ordeal. And as the final scene indicates, they will not be the phantom freighter's last victims.
  • Body Horror: After consuming a piece of hard candy from one of the ship's cupboards, Ms. Morgan's skin suddenly blisters beyond recognition. Panicking, she heads for the bunk room, where the now-possessed Captain Ashland strangles her to death.
  • Burial at Sea: Both Ms. Morgan and Lori receive one, though in the latter's case it's not so much a burial as being thrown overboard as the now-possessed Captain Ashland recites her final vows.
  • Came Back Wrong: Captain Ashland drowns in the initial sinking, and then gets possessed by ghost of the Death Ship's former commanding officer.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The titular vessel seems rather fond of dispatching people in the most horrific manner possible. Among them:
    • The ship's entertainer Jackie gets his foot seized by one of the ship's cables and is swung overboard by one of its cranes, which then cuts him loose, leaving him to drown.
    • Ms. Morgan's body begins rapidly decomposing after consuming a piece of hard candy, after which Ashland strangles her.
    • Lori is seemingly scalded to death in the shower before Ashland throws her overboard.
    • Nick plunges into a net holding hundreds of skeletons, where Ashland drowns him.
    • Lastly, Captain Ashland is crushed to death by the ship's steering gear.
  • Dark Is Evil: The titular ship looks dark and ominous, and is evil all over.
  • Dem Bones: Nick lunges at Captain Ashland, only to fall into a trap and find himself in a net holding the skeletal remains of the ship's former crew.
  • Demonic Possession: Ashland gets possessed by the ghost of the titular vessel's former captain, and eventually begins taking on his personality.
  • Fan Disservice: Lori, played by the very attractive Victoria Burgoyne, enters a shower naked, only to get sprayed in blood before finally passing out from the shock and seemingly getting scalded to death.
  • First-Name Basis: Nick, Lori, and Jackie's last names are never given at any point.
  • Freak Out: Nick and Marshall experience one in the projector room, where they are psychically attacked by the whine of the ship's electronics and the screams of its past victims.
  • Ghostapo: A rather literal example with the Death Ship being piloted by the malevolent ghosts of dead Nazis.
  • Ghost Ship: The eponymous vessel, which turns out to be a Nazi prison transport sailed by the murderous ghosts of its crew.
  • Harmful to Minors: Marshall's son Ben and daughter Robin have to endure a ship sinking, their former captain getting possessed, and seeing several people die violently.
  • Hearing Voices: The first sign that Ashland has been possessed is when he starts hearing a mysterious, disembodied voice speaking to him in German.
  • Here We Go Again!: The final shot shows another cruise ship about to be sunk by the Death Ship.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Marshall's children Ben and Robin are among the initial group of survivors and in the end are among the few who survive the events of the film. That being said, it is very likely that those killed in the cruise ship's sinking included plenty of children.
  • Jump Scare: As the survivors drift out to sea on a piece of wreckage, a human hand suddenly emerges from the water. Fortunately it turns out to be Captain Ashland.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The interior of the ship is a veritable death trap full of parts that it can use to inflict harm on those it sets its sights on.
  • Nazi Gold: The survivors get a good idea of what was done inside of the ship when they find several big drawers full of gold teeth and gold fillings.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Ashland reveals that the ship is controlled by the spirits of its long-dead crew and that it hunts down any other ship which is unfortunate enough to be in its path, luring the survivors onboard and killing them to feed on their blood.
  • Railing Kill: In a failed attempt to regain control over the ship and stop Marshall from escaping in a life raft after the ship finds a new target, Ashland starts shooting at the machinery, only to slip and fall off the railing and plunge into the ship's steering gear, crushing him to death.
  • Rain of Blood: As Lori starts taking her shower, the water suddenly turns to blood.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: There are numerous examples of unsubtitled German throughout the film, most notably in the voices Captain Ashland hears in his head.
  • Retirony: Captain Ashland's last voyage does indeed end up becoming his last - just not in the way he intended.
  • Sentient Vehicle: The titular ship seemingly has a mind of its own due to being controlled by the vengeful ghosts of its former crew. Among other things, it can summon pieces of machinery to attack you and lower its lifeboats into the sea on its own in order to prevent you from escaping.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Neither Jackie nor Nick make any attempt to stop themselves from drowning when they're being hoisted into the water. Then again, by that point they're probably paralyzed by fear.
  • Super-Persistent Missile: The eponymous vessel behaves like one of these in the opening scene - despite the crew's best efforts to evade it, it continues to match their heading until the two ships finally collide.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Death Ship was originally used by them as a POW transport.
  • Vehicle Title: Death Ship.