Impulse Buy Theater - The Ghost Galleon
For many low-budget horror movies, the series grinds on until one of the following sequel premises arise: “…on a boat” or “…IN SPAAAAAAAACE”. As the Blind Dead series moves into its third installment (after a soft reboot in the second), they opted for the first, less complicated option…and so, we have The Ghost Galleon. Does this turn into cliché show that the series is running on fumes…or does it prove a worthy twist in what has so far been a surprisingly creepy, why-on-earth-have-these-been-forgotten series of films?
Let’s look into the set up a bit more. While most horror movies just flip out the “on a boat” treatment because they're out of ideas, writer/director Amando de Ossorio once again does a little bit of homework to make sure that there’s at least some rooting for this development. Given that the Knights Templar were historically a rather wealthy order (hence bringing the attention of the Catholic Church and hastening the order’s downfall) and that they were spread all over Christendom, it’s not hard to imagine a lost ship at sea carrying dead knights and with them a portion of their accumulated wealth. [Ossorio does get his timing off though, saying the Galleon dates from the 16th century when the Templars as an order had sung their swan song in the early years of the 14th century. – Ed.] It’s a good thing to have at least a little bit of reality in the premise, because as we start to move through the plot, things get idiotic pretty quickly.
Well, that’s a hell of a lead-in, isn’t it? Hey, I don’t write these movies, I just watch ‘em! Our story opens with a swimwear photo shoot where, once completed, one of the models, Noemi, remains behind to interrogate the photographer, Lillian, about her missing roommate Kathy. It turns out that Kathy and another model, Lorena, were set adrift in a boat on the Atlantic as a publicity stunt for sporting goods magnate Howard Tucker. When Noemi threatens to go to the police with this, Lillian brings her into the plot to show her that everything is okay. Tucker’s not exactly thrilled with this, nor is his henchman Sergio. So, the three involved parties decide it’s for the best to kidnap Noemi until this is all over with. Way to go Tucker, you’ve got reckless endangerment AND kidnapping going on. I dunno, maybe in the 70s these were just misdemeanors. Two things finally spring these idiots into action; first, Noemi tries to escape because, well, kidnapping and second, Kathy radios in that their boat has collided with another ship and is slowly taking on water. In her transmission, Kathy also mentions that they’re surrounded by a dense fog and the air feels too warm…even equatorial…which would suggest that they might be off course.
Before heading out on a rescue party field trip, Tucker and Lillian hit the local Weather Bureau. [Fuck yeah!!! – Ed.] Here we meet Professor Gruber, who insists that all their observations from the area the girls are thought to be lost in don't match the conditions Kathy described in her last transmission. However, he does have a theory involving a long lost cursed ship and pleads with Tucker to take him along on the off-chance that he might be right. [Funny, Ohio State never offered a Haunted Oceanography course in their Atmospheric Sciences track. I feel gypped. – Ed.] With our party assembled, it’s off to the high seas. Will they find the girls…or something worse? What dangers await them on The Ghost Galleon?
Okay, obviously the Blind Dead await them. My earlier mentioning of the Knights Templar’s wealth will come into play too. Now that I think about it, yeah…the film doesn’t really offer much in the way of surprises. Well, that’s not entirely true…it’s surprising what the team’s resident meteorologist knows…particularly his skills in the occult and being to perform a goddamn exorcism. [Yet another class not offered in any Meteorology track...anywhere. – Ed.] But while the film doesn’t offer much in terms of twists and turns, it does manage to do what so many horror film series find themselves unable to...and that is to maintain the level of previous films. The Blind Dead/Templars continue to look just creepy as all hell…and since we’ve covered their origins in the previous two films, there is no third revision here. [Is that a missed opportunity though? The previous 2 films explained how the Blind Dead became blind. These Templar Knights though...well, maybe the simplest explanation is the best: Their eyes rotted out. - Ed.] Ossario continues to do well what he’s done well throughout the series by creating a creepy atmosphere wrought with claustrophobia…and that damn music still gives me the chills, sets up a lesbian relationship between two of the main characters…but sadly doesn’t show anything this time [DAMMIT! – Ed.] and, most important to me, maintains the belief that this is a horror movie and, as such, there should NOT be a happy ending. [As has been noted in previous reviews for this series, Ossario was a fan of George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead and this film, like its predecessors, maintains the claustrophobia and bleak outcome of that film. In addition, this time he also borrowed the flesh-eating aspect as well, as we see the Knights not only drink blood, but also get their chew on with various limbs. – Ed.] One of the neatest things for me, with the way the film ends, is that it perfectly sets up the next film in the series, Night of the Seagulls. I’d like to think that was intentional…but who knows.
I do have just one minor nit-pick: the plot synopsis on the DVD case says that a boat full of swimsuit models ends up running into the Galleon. Technically, they are correct…but it is misleading. In my eyes, ‘a boat full of swimsuit models’ implies kind of a large number of girls…let’s say 5 or more. Nope. It’s two girls. Granted, given the small size of the boat, it does indeed contain models…but I wouldn’t even say it’s full as it looks like it has a passenger capacity of four…so…not even close.
Still, even though the ‘on a boat’ premise is the only new thing The Ghost Galleon brings to the Blind Dead franchise, the fact that it maintains the series’ high-water marks [Ugh...really? - Ed.] for atmosphere, make-up and effects, you can’t really fault it for being more of the same when so many other, more memorable horror franchises have a difficult time accomplishing that. The opening might slog a bit, if only due to the sheer insanity of how these events get started in the first place, but overall the film, coming in at 90 minutes, never overstays its welcome. I guess I’d liken it to cinematic meatloaf, when done well, it really hits the spot even though it offers no real surprises…I mean, come on, it’s meatloaf. So, yeah, if you’ve watched the first two films of the series, definitely check this out. If you haven’t, check out one of the previous films first then, if you like what you saw, well, here’s your seconds. Or thirds...