Ah, the long gone glory of transoceanic travel! Promenading on the deck while enjoying the bracing North Atlantic air. Then dressing for dinner, served in the sumptuous surrounding of the first class dining room. High on one wall, a mural of the ocean, with Europe on the right and North America on the left, displays the position of sister ships: the Queen Elizabeth heading West and the liner upon which you cruise, the Queen Mary, headed East.
Tonight is Oct. 31, 1938, and many of your fellow passengers, first class all, of course, are in fancy dress to celebrate Halloween aboard the fastest liner on the ocean.
This is a portion of the story presented in the film “Haunting of the Queen Mary.” It’s a ghost/horror story set on the actual legendary ship, which sits today in an artificial “ocean” carved out of the Pacific. It’s basically a hotel with a moat, and not a very successful one at that.
One of the features of this landlocked cruise ship, which traveled nearly four million miles when in service, is the regular “Ghosts and Legends Tour.” During this tour, the ship doesn’t move an inch.
Writer/director Gary Shore (“Dracula Untold”) has taken the actual ship, some of the stories peddled by the ghost tours, and a vivid imagination to create a tale of two competing realities: that particular night in 1938, and a few days in our present era where a disintegrating family is trying to hold it together while researching a book based on the “ghost” stories told on the Queen’s tours. This is an intriguing idea, but the execution leaves us with not so much a tale of the supernatural as a mystery: how did they turn this premise into such schlock?
Mr. Shore is assisted in this debacle by co-writer Tom Vaughn (“Winchester”), who should have known better. We are treated to a hopeless muddle of two separate stories that are obviously meant to mesh, but only do so haphazardly and almost as if parts of the story are being told in reverse. There are many little set-pieces along the way that are charming in their way, but seem unconnected to the larger story. One in particular is a narrator advertising the haunted tour who speaks in the staccato voice of Rod Serling.
The 1938 sets are interesting, but much of the scenes are shot in murk, are under developed, and, frankly, underpopulated. I guess there just wasn’t enough money for sufficient extras, character development, or story coherence.
These misadventures take a full hour and 50 minutes to reach a four-minute denouement that is far better done than the 110 minutes you have to wade through to reach it.
Of some amusement (but you have to do a little research to realize this) is that the movie characters running the present day Queen Mary work for a mysterious company that is losing money on the whole deal. Especially when the place is shut down for emergency repairs. That is, in fact, the history of the Queen since she was parked at Long Beach and, like her ghosts, imprisoned forever.
One bright spot for lovers of gore: there is a particularly evil looking fire axe employed in several ghastly murders in the 1938 scenes. The murderer wields it with abandon, and blood splatters copiously. I don’t think the managers at Cunard White Star Line (original owners and operators of the Queen Mary) would approve.
Note: In some shots taken from the deck of the Queen Mary, a huge domed building is visible on shore. This was built to house the infamous “Spruce Goose”, the plywood behemoth built by Howard Hughes for the Army near the end of World War II. It didn’t fare well in Long Beach either, and has since flown north to Oregon.
Director: Gary Shore
Writers: Gary Shore, Tom Vaughn
Producers: More producers than there are passengers on this Queen Mary
Cinematographer: Isaac Bauman
Editor: Colin Campbell
Music: Tiffany Ashton
Anne Calder: Alice Eve
Patrick Calder: Joel Fry
Lucas Calder: Lenny Rush
David Ratch: Wil Coban
Gwen Ratch: Nell Hudson
Jackie Ratch: Florrie Wilkinson
Captain Bittner: Dorian Lough
Runtime: One hour, 54 minutes
Availability: In theaters, On Demand
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