FrightFest Review: Mary (2019)

Mary

A family hoping to begin a charter business buy an old boat, but on their first time taking it out in the water, it becomes apparent, they may not be out there alone…

I love ghost stories. They are my favourite sub genre of horror. But they are tricky to pull of well. Most often resort to the jump scares, which I don’t mind to be honest, but the best ones, build tension, build atmosphere, build a sense of dread to go with them. Pulling that off, is as I said tricky, which is probably why most can’t get it right.

Mary is an example of another modern horror film more interested in the jump scares than that sense of dread. That’s not to say the jump scares are ineffective,some do work, but a truly scary film needs more than that.

The film is written by Anthony Jaswinski, who also wrote The Shallows and Vanishing on 7th Street. Part of the flaws come from the film’s structure which I think has to come from the script. Because the story is told from the point of view of a survivor, in some ways, it sets up an ending you can see coming very early on. I get the appeal of horror films feeling the need to throw in one final scare, but not every film needs one, instead the ending, good or bad is enough. We don’t need more.

The other problem with the script is that there are a number of cliche’s it can’t overcome. The husband buying the boat without discussing it with his family, a purchase that puts them in possible financial hardship. A wife, who had an affair in the past, trying to get her husband past it, so agreeing to his plan. The older daughter having her boyfriend on board, the young daughter who like to draw and so on. I’m not saying every film needs an original premise, but having stereotypical characters and set ups, you need better writing for it to work and sadly this film doesn’t have it.

Director Michael Goi (who made the disturbing and controversial Megan Is Missing) fares better. As I said, there are jump scares and some of them are effective. And he uses the location (out in the middle of nowhere) and the boat very well indeed. However, like most modern horrors it must be said, the film can’t resist going for an overblown ending, with everything turned right up.

However, I may throw in a slight caveat here. Perhaps it was just me and I misheard the director, but I got the impression from what he was saying at during the Q&A after there had been changes made to the film. He didn’t criticise the producers or disown the film and, as I said, I may have read too much into what he said, but it did come over that way.

What does elevate the film is the cast. Gary Oldman is always watchable as David, the new owner of the boat. He’s matched by Emily Mortimer as his wife. There is good support to from Stefanie Scott (rather good in Insidious Chapter 3), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Jennifer Esposito.

The film looks great, the score isn’t that bad, in truth there is nothing bad really, it just needed to be written better.

There’s just enough here to make Mary watchable, but really with the cast you have and some talented people involved, you really expect so much more from the film.

I certainly did,

Rating: **1/2 out of 5

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