“Haunting of the Mary Celeste” Offers Lots of Atmosphere But Not Enough Story – Movie Review

haunting of the mary celeste review
Haunting of the Mary Celeste (Image: PR)

The horror flick Haunting of the Mary Celeste ended up being a well-directed offering which, unfortunately, will leave you wanting more as far as the overall plot’s concerned.

I was provided with a free online screener of Haunting of the Mary Celeste for review. The opinions I have shared are my own. 

If you’re looking for an atmospheric horror movie, Haunting of the Mary Celeste is likely for you. Being stranded on a boat in the middle of the sea at night is already scary. Add paranormal activity with lots of fog and creepy voices- well, such a horror film already has a lot working in its favor. In my opinion, director Shana Betz did impressive work highlighting the eeriness surrounding our cast of characters stuck in a claustrophobic boat.  

Where Haunting of Mary Celeste failed was the story. It started off great, but then didn’t really go anywhere.

Here’s the official description:

Emily Swallow (“Mandalorian,” “Supernatural”) stars as Rachel, a concerned researcher whose team who has set out to sea to prove that the disappearance of a family and crew from a merchant ship was for reasons having to do with the supernatural. Her theory that those on the Mary Celeste vanished into a “rift” between dimensions proves true as the boat breaks down and her crew begins to vanish one by one. Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Alice Hunter (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”), Dominic Devore (“P-Valley”), Pierre Adeli and Ava Acres (Free Ride) also star.

The true story of The Mary Celeste inspired the film’s original concept — it remains one of the sea’s great, unsolved mysteries. The Mary Celeste was an American merchant brigantine discovered adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean off the Azores Islands on December 4, 1872. She was found in disheveled condition… with her lifeboat missing and the last entry in the log dated ten days earlier. Her cargo was intact and while the captain and crew’s personal belongings were totally undisturbed, none of those who had been on board were ever seen or heard from again.

The premise works, right? Who wouldn’t want to know more about what happened to a ship that lost its crew without an explanation? Yet the script needed to be a lot better.

To be fair, I kind of liked how the movie tried to offer some kind of reasoning behind said disappearances. Rachel’s theory dealt with rifts opening up due to the movement of tectonic plates. However, the script didn’t do a lot with it. If you’re going to introduce science into a paranormal world, I would like you to go all in. Show me people trying to use science to defeat paranormal entities!

As for the characters, I think they needed to have more layers. We figure quite out early that Rachel has personal reasons behind being obsessed with figuring out what happened to the people on the Mary Celeste. She’s on a mission and she doesn’t care if she’s selfish to achieve her goals. Seeing a lead that’s not a goody-two-shoes was kind of refreshing. 

But, having said that, the rest of the characters felt like they were present to help fill space. Also, how sorry can you really be for a bunch of people that went looking for trouble?

I do want to share that actor Dominic DeVore (from the highly-enjoyable series P-Valley) was giving me young Hugh Grant vibes during certain scenes, and I was into all of that.

Coming to the scares, there is a handful of them (helped by Betz’s skills as a director). However, I was expecting a lot more. When a film’s talking about an entire crew mysteriously disappearing, I would like to see said crew, please. Heck, I would like to see the titular ghost ship!

Again, to be fair, the visualization of entering the rift was a nice touch. So, points for that. This is an indie movie, after all. So, I don’t want to be too harsh. But still, I was left disappointed. 

If you’re in the mood to support an indie horror offering featuring a director who knows about the importance of creating an eerie atmosphere, you should consider checking out Haunting of the Mary Celeste.

From Vertical Entertainment, Haunting of the Mary Celeste was made available on VOD and Digital on October 23, 2020. 

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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