HAUNTING OF THE MARY CELESTE (REVIEW)
Dir. Shana Betz
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Rachel (Emily Swallow), a concerned researcher, and her team have 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.
Like it's subject, HAUNTING OF THE MARY CELESTE is an old fashioned ghost story, one that plays on human connection and natural fear of the unknown instead of gimmicks and scares. Unfortunately for many as a result there is little to connect this with the horror genre so those looking for a repeat of seafarer horrors like GHOST SHIP and PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN.
The saviour of this movie is it's commitment to it's central story and passion to use budget to maximum effect and instead of filling the film with cheap scares, instead chooses to tell a well told tale of loss and the circumstances behind a missing ship. This is a TV movie and feels like it in terms of production, a big ship goes missing but instead the crew are on a small boat with no surroundings but the small scale production does not hold the film back at any time. At no time does the film fall for low budget CGI that so hampers the genre where cost is concerned, so often hampering a great storyline with distractingly bad effect. Instead, most of ...MARY CELESTE remains practical with the plane transitions proving extremely effective because of it.
The cast do really well despite legend Richard Roundtree being (quite literally) at the helm, the rest of the crew hold interest while each one disappears into the void that took the original ship. As each member disappears, it's a melancholy effect that holds over the crew rather than fear and as the truth of the circumstances behind the ships disappearance comes to fruition, it's a heart warming yet downbeat realisation for the remaining crew.
The most surprising thing about HAUNTING OF THE MARY CELESTE is that is is actually a really enjoyable experience. What the film lacks in blood and scares makes up for in an engaging and often heart breaking and sombre ghost story.
You best start believing in ghost stories, Shaft... you're in one!