Haunting of the Queen Mary (2023)
Directed by Gary Shore and Rebecca Harris
Haunting of the Queen Mary explores the mysterious and violent events surrounding one family’s voyage on Halloween night in 1938, and their interwoven destiny with another family onboard the infamous ocean liner present day.(IMDB)
A Horror Movie Review by Mark Walker
Some very mild spoilers ahead
Let’s get this out of the way right at the start. Haunting
of the Queen Mary is very much The Shining on a boat. With a troubled writer boarding the permanently docked Queen Mary in search of her son who seems to have been “taken” by the spirits that haunt it, a family murdered with an axe, spooky bartenders, mysterious ballrooms, and a wallpaper design that looks suspiciously like the carpet from the Overlook, there are some very clear influences going on here. To align yourself so closely with such a horror classic is a risky game to play, so let’s find out if Haunting of the Queen Mary manages it.
If you take a look at the current score on IMDB, you may be forgiven for thinking that, no, it doesn’t. While the film suffers a little with its structure and plot, it isn’t as bad as those reviews might suggest and it has a lot going for it if you are prepared to embark on the 2-hour voyage.
HotQM (which makes it sound a bit like a soft porn film set in an army storeroom) opens on Halloween night in 1938 and follows a family aboard the titular Queen Mary where strange things occur, passengers and crew get murdered, and spirits conspire to take the ship to the bottom of the sea.
In between the accounts of what happened on that terrible night, we skip to the present day and meet Anne and Patrick Calder (Alice Eve and Joel Fry) an estranged couple who risk everything to stay the night on the permanently docked Queen Mary, now a tourist attraction in LA. During a previous visit to discuss a possible book exploring the ghost and spirits associated with the history of the vessel, their son Lukas (Lenny Rush) goes missing and now they are back, determined to find and rescue him from the haunted ship.
As you might be able to guess, with the various ghosts and evil spirits lurking on the ship, this isn’t going to be easy. When you throw in a rather creepy caretaker/security guard/captain (Dorian Lough) into the mix, things get messy quickly, as past and present collide in terrifying and bloody ways.
There is a lot happening in HotQM, occasionally blurring the plot so that it is not always clear what is going on. Most things do come clear eventually, however, and by the time the credits were rolling, I had had an enjoyable couple of hours. It does feel a little overlong at just under 2 hours, but the double-layered plot needed that time to unfold. There may be an argument that a decent haunted house (boat) story is begging to be told from just the 1938 timeline, with a father possessed and going crazy, and threatening the safety of everyone onboard. The reason for his madness is an interesting one and adds a ticking clock for the captain and crew who have little time to save the ship from sinking. It was an interesting idea that I have not come across before and would have liked the film to have taken more time to explore it.
It is not that the modern-day half of the film is unnecessary, it all works in the context of the wider story, but it adds to the amount of information that needs to be conveyed to the audience and, even with nearly two hours, this is sometimes a little rushed or confused and there are a few loose ends that are left dangling at the end of the film.
So HotQM has its flaws, but not enough to warrant the low score on IMDB. As ever, movies are a personal thing and everyone will have a different view, but this is a solid 6/7 out of 10 for me and I definitely enjoyed the viewing. There is a great cast of familiar characters who all do a fantastic job and the atmosphere in both timelines is suitable spooky, but in slightly different ways. The 1938 section kept reminding me of the aesthetic employed in the Bioshock games and I found myself expecting to see a Big Daddy turn up at some point! As well as atmosphere, there is also enough gore and shocks to keep you on your toes; swinging axes and flesh are never good bedfellows.
I am sure some will see the parallels with The Shining as a negative or plagiarism, but I enjoyed it and suspect there are other little references that I missed the first time around. This is homage done well and the movie isn’t claiming to be the next Shining, rather it is tipping its hat to honour one of the most influential horrors of all time.
HotQM is a solid, if slightly overlong, horror that possibly tries to bite off more than it can chew, but just about manages to stick the landing, with good acting and atmospheric direction – check it out from 9th October!
Vertigo Releasing presents HAUNTING OF THE QUEEN MARY on digital platforms 9th October 2023