I truly believe the 2020s might just become one of the greatest film eras in history. That being said, Gary Shore’s “Haunting of the Queen Mary” (2023) has some of the most beautiful shots I’ve seen in film in recent years. The story itself is a heartbreaking puzzle that the viewer has to decipher for themselves step by step, and in the midst of it all, be immersed in a thrilling mixture of visual mediums that oscillate between full color and black and white.
Proceed with caution, this review contains spoilers.
The heart of the “Haunting of the Queen Mary” is the story of two mothers wanting to save their children. One mother (Nell Hudson), in 1938, aboard the Queen Mary ship on a Halloween night, tries to protect her daughter Jackie (Florrie Wilkinson) from the spirit possessing her husband’s body. She fails, and as such she, her daughter, and her husband get stuck on the ship as restless ghosts. Sixty-five years later, Jackie manages to escape by possessing Lukas (Lenny Rush), a young boy aboard the now-grounded ship with his parents. When Lukas’ mother, Anne (Alice Eve), learns of what has happened – that her son had died on the ship and that the little girl was possessing his body – she returns to the Queen Mary to save Lukas.
In most horror films, the endings have this sense of victory, no matter how small. There’s retribution of sorts. The characters escape or defeat the villain in some way. In the “Haunting of the Queen Mary,” all parties involved lose. The first family from 1938 who got murdered on the ship escape only for the daughter Jackie to die in Lukas’ body. This is followed by the girl’s parents – who now possess Lukas’ parents’ bodies – to then be arrested for the death. And, in a painfully unsatisfying final note, the main villain, the Captain, doesn’t face any consequences for trapping what must be hundreds of innocent spirits on the Queen Mary. The film is a tragedy from start to finish with no relief.
Shore’s “Haunting of the Queen Mary” is also very much show and don’t tell. The film relies heavily on the audience paying attention to every single scene as each one is tied to another somewhere along the line. As someone who watched the movie at home, I can’t imagine I would have understood much of it had I seen it at the theater instead. Over the course of the two hours or so, I had to pause and rewind and pause again quite often. At times, it almost felt like I was watching someone finish the tail end of their thought out loud.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Once I finally figured out what was transpiring, the film materialized before me as a masterpiece, albeit as an overthought.