Haunting of the Mary Celeste (2020) – Movie Review

Radio Crackles & Watery Visions

There’s something unsettling about cursed vessels out at sea. From the twisty-turny Triangle to the aptly titled Ghost Ship, haunted ships are something that – when done right – can conjure a healthy dose of fear and dread.

Immediately Haunting of the Mary Celeste draws you in, with a promising movie poster despite its similarities to Ghost Ship. It also boasts a solid premise based loosely on a real-world naval mystery.

For those unaware, the Mary Celeste was an American merchant vessel discovered just off the coast of the Azores Islands. With its lifeboat missing and no passengers onboard, the real events surrounding this vessel are rife with mystery.

Giant squid attacks, water spouts and even paranormal intervention have been mentioned in connection with this ship, with the real events still unknown to this day.

In terms of backstory, The Haunting Of Mary Celeste has a rich history to draw from and throughout this 75 minute Indie, there’s definitely some potential for a creepy and scary horror to follow. Unfortunately that potential never materializes itself into anything beyond a methodically paced research adventure out at sea.

Admittedly, the film has obvious budget restrictions limiting this to a small boat in the middle of the nowhere. However, there’s no jump scares, no outright psychological shocks or unsettling segments beyond a couple of neat tricks involving a stack of coins and crackles on the radio.

Instead, this movie is much more geared toward drama and much reminisce of something like The Haunting Of Bly Manor. Mary Celeste is not a bad film per-se and certainly isn’t drowning in flashbacks like the aforementioned Bly Manor is. However, those going into this expecting a creepy horror with lots of bump-in-the-night moments will be disappointed.

Our protagonist embarking on this seafaring voyage is researcher Cassandra who takes her assistants Rachel and Grant out to do some readings out at sea. Their hired Captain Tulls is not enthused by this gig though and clearly knows more than he should.

Once they arrive though, things predictably start to go awry until the final stretch of the movie. There, a surprisingly good plot twist wraps everything up with a relatively satisfying conclusion. In fact, these final moments are arguably the best segments of the entire film.

For the most part, this is actually quite slow and there isn’t a lot of substance to this one either. The suspenseful atmosphere early on soon dissipates and it takes a good hour before that pace ramps up and begins to show some urgency.

The few positives this film has are reserved to some decent acting performances and an intriguing back-story. Unfortunately this premise is frustratingly under-developed. To quote Bly Manor, this isn’t necessarily a scary tale but more of a love story. And much like Bly Manor before it, those going into this looking for scares will be disappointed.

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  • Verdict - 3.5/10

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