Norman Rockwell Harmony Voyage leads to Dangers from Within
The trailer for director Michael Goi and writer Anthony Jaswinski’s new film “Mary,” starts out feeling quite wholesome, as a father played by Gary Oldman buys an old sailboat from a shipyard with the intention of getting into the charter-boat business. First, however, he takes his family on a bonding voyage across the sea. Initially, looks like a hopeful, albeit a little sappy, family drama that will leave you feeling inspired and optimistic.
Once the ship is out at sea, though, and the family is alone on open waters, things start to get strange. The family’s youngest daughter named Mary starts talking to an imaginary friend aboard the ship, and soon enough, this imaginary relationship leads her to do sadistic things. The young girl becomes a threat to the family as they realize that the old ship is cursed and that everyone who has sailed it before has ended up engulfed in tragedy.
So no, “Mary” is not the pleasant melodrama that we might have been expecting or even hoping for. Instead it is yet another horror movie, and while the ship setting looks somewhat original, the possessed little girl trope and the cursed old relic convention cannot help but render the film a little clichéd.
The cursed ship in “Mary” is not an ocean liner or even a yacht. It is a small, manual sailboat that probably has no more than a single room beneath the deck. This setting gives the film a terrifically claustrophobic feel, which could further the horror aspect, but we have to question how much can actually be done within such a small setting.
After a while, it is very possible that the confined space will lose its suspense. The film really seems to be banking on the ship setting as its most distinguishing aspect, as even the trailer heavily explicates the fact that there is nowhere to run on a ship. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman’s character, the captain and family patriarch, must consider weather he should keep sailing forward or turn around, creating an internal struggle between ambition and safety that could lead to madness or strife—yet another horror movie cliché.
Can we really blame the writers or the Oscar winning Gary Oldman for what “Mary” is, though? For everything it does that has been done before, it at least makes an effort to be original in how it scares and intrigues its audience. However, the horror genre right now requires more than just scariness. Unless it is a Jordan Peele kind of social commentary or something deeply nostalgia like “It: Chapter Two,” it is very difficult for a horror film to stand out.
So if you want a fun-house horror movie to get you in the Halloween spirit with jump scares and general creepiness, “Mary” will probably do the trick. But, if you are looking for something that will garner critical acclaim or immense originality, you may want to take your money elsewhere, perhaps away from horror altogether and over to whatever movie follows through on that gripping family melodrama exposition.
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