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Review: Ship of the Damned. Surprisingly, no ghosts in this one

  • Release year: 2024
  • Director: Steve Lawson.
  • Producers: May Monteiro, Hannah O’Donoghue and Jeremy Rothwell.
  • Screenplay by: Steve Lawson.
  • Cinematographers: Jon O’Neill.

Synopsis: an expert in old ships and her old flame end up in a 17th century pirate ship that is not as abandoned as they thought.

Shotgun Commentary: while not specially original plotwise, this might be the first horror B-movie with proper female character representation. So, if you don’t mind the cannibalism, highly recommend checking it out, even if just for the novelty of it all.

Elena (Hannaj Bang Bendz). Source: Ship of the Damned (Steve Lawson, 2024).

Review

Ship of the Damned is the account of Elena’s traumatic experience during the night she spends aboard a cursed pirate vessel. The narration is as far as possible from any of Elizabeth Swan’s adventures (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, 2003-2007). And, in case you’re wondering, it is also far and away from any previous ghost ship film you might have watched. So if you have ghostly needs that need scratching, this is not your movie.

Emmental plot

Elena (Hannaj Bang Bendz) is a pirate ship expert who gets lured into a pirate vessel by her ex, Michael (Jacob Anderton). He is a guy who works with the coast guard…or something like that, his background is very much irrelevant. When they board the ship, they are discovered by the pirates, who kidnap them and set sail. The pirates are cursed by a supposed witch. Before being killed, she cast a spell that turned them into cannibals who can never get to shore.

This leads to them eating her right after multiple stabs. Why the cannibal bit of the curse, though? Was it her life-long wish to get eaten after dead? Did she want to make their life at sea easier? There are many, many questions one can ask about this subject. Sadly, none of the possible answers is satisfactory enough, so just don’t dwell on it.

Camila (Patrícia Duarte). Source: Ship of the Damned (Steve Lawson, 2024).

As is to be expected, the cannibal pirates have a captain, Jacob (Ben Manning). Jacob insists that he is “the civilised one”. The statement feels sketchy from the beginning, and your suspicions get confirmed after he eats some intestines and almost rapes Michael out of the blue.

In trying to make them old-fashioned and salvage, the pirates become borderline nonsensical and their lines quite ridiculous and contradictory. The fact that the second in command says that there will never be any kids on the ship, right before the captain revealing that their plan is to rape Elena until they get her pregnant, is case in point.

A crucial leap for B-movies

The main attraction of the film is the protagonist, Elena. Her behaviour finally reflects the mentality writers should have in 2024 when writing female characters. Not only is she strong, but she also keeps her cool under stressful situations. Much like any male character would, Elena analyses her situation to figure out how to survive. No whining, or crying, or yelling or complaining.

Elena (Hannaj Bang Bendz) and Jacob (Ben Manning).
Source: Ship of the Damned (Steve Lawson, 2024).

Finally, someone gets it in the world of B-movies: women don’t need to yell to be scared, and they don’t need a man to find the solution to their problems. It is so encouraging to see this change in a genre known for brainless bimbos running around half naked and being as unhelpful and annoying as possible.

This amazing writing doesn’t come without a cost though, and that is the dress scene. Why would Elena not at least knock out the captain in order to carry out her plan? Especially after she has already beaten the hell out of Jacob and killed a couple of people. It seems like the whole getting him drunk and pretending to like him is more suited for a character with no physical strength in need of leverage. One could argue that she is trying to avoid violence. It would be grasping at straws, but passable as an excuse.

Shipwreck… or is it?

What is not passable or believable is that Elena and Michael ever had something, much less including love. A one-night stand out of pity? Maybe, but the -300 chemistry they have going on is so surreal it is hilarious. Almost as hysterical as the soundtrack, that is mainly formed of one woman moaning/yelling without purpose.

Elena (Hannaj Bang Bendz). Source: Ship of the Damned (Steve Lawson, 2024).

Surprisingly, those two factors manage to add to humour to the film so, even though the lady moaning can get tiring at times, they are overall good additions if the goal is to have the audience entertained through pure awkwardness.

All in all, the plot is weak and full of loose ends. It gives the impression that it needs a couple more rewrites to actually be done. The creation of the protagonist is significantly more solid, providing the movie with an interesting bait for the audience, and, even though it comes across as ridiculous sometimes, it is totally watchable, especially for enthusiasts of the cannibal genre.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Can’t believe I have to say this in 2024, but NEVER leave the house without your phone!
  • If you found a historical site, get some teams there to do research instead of letting the coast guard trample all over it?
  • Even though cannibalism is a great tool for horror, sometimes the threat of rape is scary enough, especially if you don’t know how to connect everything together. Less is more.
Elena (Hannaj Bang Bendz). Source: Ship of the Damned (Steve Lawson, 2024).

What’s your take? Have you watched Ship of the Damned? What’s your favourite way to watch this type of movie? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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