FILM REVIEW – MARY. With Gary Oldman, Emily Mortimer, Jennifer Esposito, Stefanie Scott, Chloe Perrin. Written by Anthony Jaswinski. Directed by Michael Goi. Rated R for some terror, violence, and language. 84 minutes.
MARY, despite its pedigree, is a conventional horror film crossed with a dysfunctional family drama of a kind we’ve seen many times. What makes it stand out are its cast including Oscar winner Gary Oldman, along with Emily Mortimer, and Jennifer Esposito. Why these actors chose this project is a discussion best left between them and their agents. Beyond the cast, what probably earned the green light for this movie was that director Michael Goi was nominated for primetime Emmys for his work on “American Horror Story” and “Glee,” plus a presumably tight budget given that the film consists primarily of two locations and was shot in and off the coast of Alabama.
The story begins with a detective (Esposito) questioning the survivor (Mortimer) of an explosion at sea. We the cut back-and-forth between extended flashbacks and the detective’s skepticism over her increasingly bizarre story. It seems that David (Oldman) has decided to set out on his own rather than work on someone else’s boat, having sunk the family’s money in a refurbished wreck he dubs Mary, after their younger daughter (Chloe Perrin). We get scenes between husband and wife about their marriage and his making the purchase without any discussion.
Soon, the family (including a teenage daughter played by Stefanie Scott) and crew are at sea, and strange things begin to happen. The film dutifully hits the expected beats and jump scares – mother finds Mary drawing a mysterious dark figure, one of the crew members (Owen Teague) turns unexpectedly violent, the family starts turning on each other as they discover that the ship is cursed – all of this leading to a “surprise” ending that should only surprise you if you’ve never seen a horror movie.
That’s the problem. The script, which is credited to Anthony Jaswinski (who wrote the tight shark tale “The Shallows”) is so formulaic that even with the story cutting between the police station and the flashbacks to the boat, it isn’t hard to connect the dots. That doesn’t make it a bad film, but it does make it a very basic horror entry. It’s the difference between having a fancy meal or generic fast food. This is very much the latter.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.