‘Ship of the Damned’ Review: Cursed Cannibal Pirates on a Low-Budget Ship

Ship of the Damned is an entertaining film with a good cast, but its ambition is too great for its budget.

Ship of the Damned was released on streaming services in the USA on June 4th, 2024. It debuted in the United Kingdom earlier in 2024. (pictured: Hannaj Bang Bendz as Elena, and Ciaron Davies as Garrick)

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What is Ship of the Damned About?

Elena holds a bloody knife in Ship of the Damned (2024).
There is a bit of action in Ship of the Damned, but not really enough to qualify it as an action-horror movie.

Ship of the Damned is a low-budget horror/thriller about people in modern times trapped aboard a cursed pirate ship.

About four hundred years ago, a pirate crew resorted to cannibalism when times became rough. Unfortunately for them, one of the people they chose to dine on was a witch who cursed the crew to sail the seas for eternity. Now, in the modern world, the ship is found drifting at sea and is towed into port. Thinking it is abandoned, Elena (a historian and expert in ancient ships) and Michael (Elena’s ex-boyfriend and an official working at the local port authority) board the ship to investigate. They discover that the 400-year-old crew is still alive, and they have been searching for someone just like Elena to break their curse. But neither Elena nor Michael will enjoy what the cursed, cannibalistic pirates plan to do to put end end to their eternal suffering.

A witch with white eyes curses the crew of a pirate ship in Ship of the Damned (2024).
The supernatural elements in the movie are talked about more than they’re actually shown.

Ship of the Damned stars Hannaj Bang Bendz as Elena, and Jacob Anderton as Michael. Also featured are Ben Manning as the pirate captain Jacob, Ciaron Davies as the pirate Garrick, and Francesca Louise White as Elena’s roommate Charlie. Ship of the Damned was written and directed by Steve Lawson.

Ship of the Damned Review

Hannaj Bang Bendz and Jacob Anderton as Elena and Michael in Ship of the Damned (2024).
The interactions between Elena and Michael are the best parts of Ship of the Damned.

The makers of Ship of the Damned managed to do a lot of good things with a very limited budget. The best part of the movie is the cast. Hannaj Bang Bendz, Jacob Anderton, and Ben Manning are all great in their roles as Elena, Michael, and Jacob, and their chemistry with each other is wonderful to watch. Elena and Michael are particularly good together. The slightly awkward yet endearing relationship the characters have as exes stuck together in a life-or-death situation is great, and it keeps the movie interesting and engaging throughout. Also, Jacob is the most complex character among the pirates, and his charisma makes him a villain you want to watch.

Jacob holds a gun in Ship of the Damned (2024).
Jacob gets a nice hero shot, despite him very much not being a hero.

The story in Ship of the Damned is fine. Though the pirates are cannibals, the actual screen time for any cannibalism is more limited than you might expect for a low-budget horror movie. The focus is mostly on Elena and Michael as they try to escape, and that focus leads to a plot that moves along at a fair pace. So even though the movie isn’t action-packed, it never really drags either. It’s a decently fun 85-minute watch.

Michael and Elena talk to each other while crouching above a hatch in the ship in Ship of the Damned (2024).
This is the closest we get to seeing any of the actors on the deck of the ship.

The biggest drawback in Ship of the Damned is the gap between the film’s ambition and budget. Its title and promotional artwork suggest a spooky movie on a pirate ship at sea, but that’s not what we actually see. All of the exterior shots of the ship appear to be a combination of low-budget CGI and stock footage (which doesn’t always match previous shots). The bulk of the movie takes place in a very small number of cramped sets that are basically just fully-enclosed rooms with wooden walls. No windows or portholes, and little in the way of set design. It’s all rather bland and unconvincing as an actual ship, and it does detract from the overall experience.

Ship of the Damned Rating and Recommendation

Elena is tied up in Ship of the Damned (2024).
Ship of the Damned is worth a discounted rental or waiting for whenever it inevitably shows up on Tubi.
Star rating: 2.5 out of 5

Ship of the Damned is just okay. As Elena, Hannaj Bang Bendz is a star worth paying attention to. She’s also the main reason to watch this movie, because she is quite good. Overall though, Ship of the Damned is a fairly average low-budget movie that is worth checking out if the premise sounds particularly interesting to you, and if you’re able to keep your expectations low with regards to seeing much actual cannibalism or piracy.

Ship of the Damned is currently available for purchase and rental on Amazon Prime Video and Fandango at Home.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.