Director: Gary Shore
Cast: Alice Eve, Joel Fry, Lenny Rush, Tim Downie, Nell Hudson
Runtime: 2 hr 5 min
Rating: M18 (Violence and Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 21 September 2023
Synopsis: A luxury ocean-liner graced by generations of the rich and famous, HMS Queen Mary is now celebrated – and fear – as “One of the World’s Most Haunted Places” (Time Magazine). When photographers Erin and Patrick are brought aboard the ship with their young son Lukas, they unleash a series of events that entwines their family with the ship’s dark past. As the terror unfolds around them they begin to realise there is more to this sumptuous ocean liner than meets the eye: its remarkable legacy masking violent secrets. As Erin and Patrick uncover the haunted layers that the vast ship contains, it becomes increasingly clear that there is only one way out for them – to go even deeper.
‘The Queen Mary’ holds plenty of promise as a nautical horror; unfortunately, it not only struggles to find its sea legs, it also ultimately runs aground due to its narrative incoherence.
Adapted by Irish director Gary Shore (of ‘Dracula Untold’) from various tales of the luxury transatlantic liner, ‘The Queen Mary’ interweaves two stories from past and present to show how the vessel’s spirits have been trapped in time.
The former opens the movie with a glimpse of the terror rippling through the ship on Halloween night in 1938, as one of its passengers sits in a straightjacket below decks after going on a murder spree while other passengers oblivious to these murders rush to the upper decks in their life jackets after a failure in the ship’s engine.
It’s a gripping opening, but before we are able to find out more, that chain of events is rudely interrupted with an abrupt jump to present day. Here, we are introduced to Anne (Alice Eve), who is on the way to visit the Queen Mary with her son Lukas (Henry Rush) and estranged husband Patrick (Joel Fry). On the pretense of touring the ship, Anne lobbies its existing captain (Dorian Lough) to allow her to collect material for her book and accompanying virtual 3D tour.
Alas, Lukas goes missing halfway through the tour, and is found completely drenched from head to toe. After returning home, Lukas also tries to escape from out his bedroom window, which further triggers Anne’s curiosity what had happened to Lukas below deck. Her quest for answers leads her to spend a night on board the Queen Mary with Patrick, where she realises just how haunted the ship is.
Whether intentional or otherwise, the story of that fateful Halloween voyage carries a strong whiff of class inequality, as it is revealed that the said murderer is a third-class passenger named David (Will Coban) who had tried to sneak his fortune teller wife Gwen (Nell Hudson) and 8-year old daughter Jackie (Florrie Wilkinson) into the restaurant for the ship’s first-class passengers before being painfully humiliated by one of them. Notwithstanding that Jackie eventually wins them over by tap-dancing with Fred Astaire no less, David loses it back in his cabin, slashing five of his fellow passengers after killing Gwen.
There are clear advantages to being able to film on board the actual ship, and Shore makes that plainly evident by establishing a strong mise-en-scene from the very start. His gothic stylings are impressive, and he is further liberated by the ability to take an axe to skull (literally) in its full brutality. Those who love their horror bloody will be glad to know that there is plenty of bloodletting here, which Shore stages with grisly glee.
Yet these visceral pleasures cannot quite disguise how the film struggles to keep up its narrative momentum while oscillating from past to present and drawing connections between the two. By the halfway mark, it is equally clear that the story is a muddle, especially with regard to Anne’s search for her missing son Lukas whom she believes is still alive on board the ship. Indeed, it would have made a richer film if it had dedicated itself entirely to its period subplot, than to have to dilute it with a present day distraction.
So despite its strong atmosphere, ‘The Queen Mary’ falters due to its weak plotting. As much as we’d have liked to, it is hard to overlook the narrative whiplash between past and present. It is also why we’re unlikely to see this materialise as a trilogy, as much as Shore would have wanted it to. No amount of Hail Marys can save this horror from ultimately running aground.
(No amount of Hail Marys can save 'The Queen Mary' from running aground due to its narrative incoherence)
Review by Gabriel Chong