Haunting of the Queen Mary isn’t a royal biopic, or the true story of the once-famous ship, but belongs firmly to the sub-genre of seafaring superstition; various Ghost/Death Ships, Triangle, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, the Marie Celeste, you know what you’re in for before you set sail and it won’t end well. Since sailors usually had plenty of rituals and anxieties about the worst things that might happen to them at sea, it’s natural such folklore would expand into books and movies, translated and updated to give us land-lubbers a few chills.
Taking advantage of the interiors and exteriors of the real-life Queen Mary, built in John Browns’ Clydebank yard in the 1920’s and now secured on concrete as a tourist attraction in California, Gary Shore’s well-upholstered film is more ghost story than horror, with twin narrative time-lines offering up something a little deeper than the usual jump-scares associated with the genre. The cast is a cut above too; Alice Eve from Star Trek Into Darkness plays Erin, a photographer with a young son called Lukas. Erin is having relationship problems with her partner Patrick (Joel Fry from Yesterday and Our Flag Means Death in a rare straight role), and Lukas goes missing in the depths of the ship while she’s attending a job interview on the Queen Mary. What’s happened to Lukas?
While this modern drama is unfolding, we flash back to a terrible murder that took place on the ship years previously, a shocking massacre in which a family on-the-make try to gain access into the first class section, where movie producers and even Fred Astaire (Wesley Alfvin) are gathered. When their ruse is cruelly exposed, their disturbed father goes somewhat Jack Torrance. Shore’s film is ornate and unusual enough narratively to be of interest beyond horror aficionados, and the key film to bear in mind is clearly The Shining. The period backstory behind the haunting is given centre stage here, and with masked men, rude film-makers and all kinds of intrigue above and below deck, it’s this section of the film which manages to generate some considerable frissons by doubling down on our sense of foreboding and modern class-conflict outrage.
Haunting of the Queen Mary is a plush looking film, with a strong location that allows for plenty of atmosphere and character, and switching between two reasonably tightly wound narratives which means that the story is never dull to watch. This is supposedly the first of a trilogy of films with the same setting, which might be stretching things a little, but on this evidence, there’s enough blood and tension to sustain at least one more return to the well, and those seeking something different from the usual blood and guts pre-Halloween fare would be well-advised to take one more trip on this rather haunting version of The Queen Mary.