As a seasoned horror fanatic, I eagerly anticipated the 2023 release of director Gary Shore’s Haunting of the Queen Mary, expecting spine-chilling thrills and a captivating storyline. I grew up hearing stories of haunted ships and the ghosts that are rumored to haunt the famed Queen Mary specifically piqued my interest. However, my excitement quickly turned to disappointment as I endured what can only be described as a sinking ship of a film with one-dimensional characters, no originality, and a plot so convoluted I struggle even now to describe it at all.

The first fifteen minutes or so of Haunting of the Queen Mary showed promise. The film opens aboard the Queen Mary in 1938 where the ship’s occupants are amid a lavish Halloween bash when it is discovered that a series of horrible murders have taken place. The cinematography is beautiful, the colours are vibrant, and the 1930s music playing in the background adds to the ambiance the film creates. However, we are quickly taken away from what feels like a promising film noir and dropped into the present day where we meet Anne, Patrick, and Lukas, a family on the verge of collapse. Anne and Patrick are hoping to save their relationship (or not, it’s hard to tell and seems to go back and forth) by writing yet another book about the Queen Mary. And this is where the film starts to sink as viewers are slingshotted back and forth between timelines and plots for just over two hours.

 

Masked man in Halloween costume

To say the plot lacked depth and originality would be an understatement. It felt like a recycled mishmash of every cliché haunted ship trope imaginable, offering nothing new or innovative to engage the audience. With the overlapping storylines from different times and the hackneyed “Who’s a ghost and who’s not?” gimmick, it just felt like an old movie with slightly newer special effects. This isn’t to say the movie had no plot at all. If anything, it had too many plots and they never came together satisfyingly, but instead became so muddied by the various subplots that it was hard to become invested in any of them at all. The predictable jump scares were telegraphed from a mile away, robbing them of any genuine shock value and making it feel like nothing more than a terrible rehashing of 2002’s “Ghost Ship,” but without any of the cheesy charm.

The characters were woefully underdeveloped, making it impossible to invest emotionally in their fates. In the 1938 storyline, the characters weren’t given a chance to be fleshed out before the massacre began, but their backstories were hinted at and then never explored. In the present-day storyline, the characters seemed to be there only to provide obvious exposition rather than to further their own unique storylines and relationships through any kind of character arc. Their interactions with one another were stilted and their actions often defied logic, as if they were merely vessels for advancing the contrived plot rather than authentic individuals with agency and depth. Furthermore, the pacing was atrocious, with long stretches of tedious exposition punctuated by brief bursts of uninspired horror. Any tension that managed to build was swiftly deflated by awkward dialogue and wooden performances.

 

Visually, the film failed to take advantage of the spooky atmosphere of the Queen Mary, opting instead for cheap, generic scares that relied heavily on CGI and dizzying jump cuts. What could have been a  deeply unsettling setting is underutilized and instead feels at times like a museum tour rather than storytelling. The lackluster special effects only served to undermine the already flimsy sense of immersion, leaving viewers feeling more detached and confused than terrified.

In conclusion, Haunting of the Queen Mary is a forgettable addition to the horror genre, destined to be consigned to the murky depths of mediocrity. Where haunted ship movies such as Ghost Ship and Triangle gained a cult following, it’s hard to see this film gaining traction even with a small group of dedicated haunted ship aficionados. Save yourself the disappointment and steer clear of this cinematic shipwreck.

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