The Best Offshore Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen

Ghostboat (2006)

A British submarine that went missing towards the end of World War II suddenly resurfaces, but while it originally went down with nearly its entire crew it’s found completely empty. One sailor who escaped before it sank is called back to service to help explain what happened. Along with a new crew of British sailors, they retrace the sub’s original path in search of answers, but ghostly voices from the past soon start taking control.

This UK mini-series should appeal to fans of U-571 (2000) and Below (2002) alike as it approaches the sub’s handling with legit-sounding detail. It feels at times like a more traditional sub film like Das Boot or Crimson Tide, but it applies that serious approach to a solidly Twilight Zone-like premise. It’s the present day above, but the crew below begins taking on the traits and behaviors of the sub’s original sailors. It’s a haunting of sorts as the two times merge, and unless it can be stopped this new crew is equally doomed.

Its immediate story is that of a seemingly haunted sub, and it succeeds in delivering some engaging supernatural shenanigans, but much of the terror comes from the overriding impulses of men. The sub is deemed to have some manner of otherworldly power, and some aboard her think she should be used as a weapon. Harnessing evil powers for the purpose of war almost never works out well for those involved, and that trend’s not about to change here.

Ghostboat is available on DVD from Amazon.

Triangle (2009)

A group of friends on a sailing trip capsize far from land and find rescue in a passing cruise ship. One problem, it appears empty aside from a killer wearing a burlap sack. That’s frightening enough, but the mysterious figure is ultimately the least of their concerns.

Like Dead Calm, this is a film that many of you have probably seen, but it’s again a movie that still more of you should. Writer/director Christopher Smith delivers a mesmerizing puzzle box mashing horror and sci-fi into a brilliant genre concoction. It’s constantly surprising, and as more twists rear their head the dark beauty of it all comes clearer causing the corners of your mouth to rise. (That’s me describing a smile in a convoluted way.) The film is easily spoiled on that front, but happily, even knowing the details the film is highly rewatchable all the same.

It’s a smart film across the board, but Smith’s smartest decision is in the casting of Melissa George in the lead. She has a few horror gems amid her filmography including 30 Days of Night (2007) and A Lonely Place to Die (2011), and she’s the best thing in some lesser fare too (Turistas, 2006). Her role here is a demanding one physically, mentally, and emotionally, and it grows increasingly complicated as she keeps pace with the story beats.

Triangle is available to buy/rent on Amazon.

The Boat (2018)

A fisherman heading out for the day’s catch finds an abandoned sailboat instead, and when his own boat mysteriously comes untied and drifts away he’s forced to remain aboard. Mechanical problems, the threat of sinking, curiously locked doors, and an impending storm see his wits and abilities tested, and it only gets worse when he realizes that someone – or something – is on the boat with him.

There’s a lot to love in this terrific slice of seabound terror from its setup to its pitch-perfect ending, but one of its most appealing aspects is its dual nature as both horror and survival film. Even if you remove the elements teasing something unnatural at play you’re still left with an incredibly thrilling adventure pitting one man’s knowledge and instincts against all manner of challenges. Most of us would be dead thirty minutes in, but our unnamed protagonist – the film’s only character – meets most obstacles with grit and calm determination. It’s a suspenseful ride, and as confirmed by its ridiculously good ending it’s also a highly satisfying ode to mutual respect between man and nature… and something else.

Several crazy good movies played this year’s Fantastic Fest, but this unassuming gem was my absolute favorite. With only a single character the dialogue is kept to the bare minimum, but star/co-writer Joe Azzopardi makes his intentions and emotions clear with a solid performance that holds viewers rapt as he fights to survive against increasingly damning odds. Imagine 2013’s All Is Lost, but with a heavy hint of the unknown, or even the Dead Calm scene highlighted above, but stretched out to feature length and given a twist of the supernatural. It’s smart entertainment I’m hoping to set sail with again soon.

The Boat is currently unavailable and seeking distribution.

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