Monday, December 14, 2020

Hello Mary Lou! It's...Urban Legends 3

As we begin the welcome process of closing down 2020, it's nice to think back to the handful of good things this year of horrors has brought us. Among antibodies? 

Oh, and on a personal note, my rediscovery of Urban Legend and first time enjoyment of its sequels.

Quick Plot: It's prom night, 1969, and shy Mary has snagged herself a popular jock as her date. Strings are attached, as it turns out said gentleman caller and his pals are really just out to roofie a few unsuspecting seniors via some laced punch. Mary ends up dead, though if you say her name three times, you just might flash forward to 2005's Sam (a young Kate Mara), regaling her slumber party pals with some urban legend tales involving poor Bloody Mary, trapped forever in a locked treasure chest.

Turns out, Mary has been waiting 35 years to come back for her revenge, doling it out creatively on the teenage offspring of all her former classmates responsible for her fate. We've got a Final Destination 3-esque tanning bed demise, CGI spider eggs disguised as a pimple, death-by-peeing-on-an-electrical fence, and more. 

The Final Destination 3 similarities don't end there: any specific connection to the first two Urban Legend films is essentially brushed away by a "hey! I found this article on the internet about other urban legend-inspired killings." I suppose you could count the more uncomfortable ties as well: as in the first Urban Legend, a dog is killed (part 2 was kind enough to only do so in its movie within the movie) and as with Loretta Divine's Reese, the film's only black character can easily be charmed by complimenting her on her resemblance to Foxy Brown.

Directed by Pet Sematary (and Pet Sematary 2)'s Mary Lambert, Bloody Mary is clearly itself a fan of the horror genre. That's not surprising when you see that the script was cowritten by Krampus/Trick 'r Treat's Michael Dougherty. It shares some DNA of the post-Scream self-aware dead teenager flick, but also has some deep affection for older films, particularly the glorious Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. 

The early aughts were a weird time for pop horror. Scream-infused slashers were slowly dying away, while The Ring's success made J-Horror the hot new style. Saw would burst onto the scene in 2004, bringing with it a whole new movement in nihilism and gore. Landing on DVD in 2005, Blood Mary feels in some ways like a carefully blended combination of these styles. There's dated CGI attempting bordering on silly, a ghostly dark-haired girl showing up to make faces, and a batch of beautiful young white people awaiting a truly horrid fate. 

That sounds kind of terrible, but when put together with just the right touch, it's a weirdly dumb good time.

High Points
While it's a little inconsistent, the overall tone of Bloody Mary feels just right. Teenagers are dying in bizarre and brutal ways, but, well, most of them are kind of awful to begin with, and Lambert's touch feels like it carries just the right weight to make the deaths land in decent taste (yes, I realize I'm saying high school students being burned to death in tanning beds or castrated by electric fences is tasteful, but some of you know what I mean)

Low Points
There's really only one relationship with any real heart, and that's Sam and her brother David. While it's refreshing to have a genuinely loving sibling bond, it also makes the ending and lack of, well, dealing with a key aspect of the ending rather unsatisfying

Lessons Learned
The most effective morning beauty routine involves wearing a perfectly matched Victoria's Secret bra and panties set and slipping into high heels before putting on your makeup

Complete confidence means nothing if your mom's a dirty alcoholic

Being isolated from your pals after watching your frenemies murdered will do wonders for the health of your hair

Look! It's- 
Pre-"I didn't even want to be in the Nightmare On Elm Street remake" Rooney Mara, Kate's little, now more famous sister as "Classroom Girl #1." Naturally, I got very distracted from the plot of Bloody Mary with my much more interesting new fantasy version of Whatever Happened to Baby Mara?

Bloody Mary is a fun time capsule of early 21st century teen horror, one that feels charmingly less hip than some of its more CW network-cast quickies. I watched it via Netflix disc (yes, I'm that old) and there's a cute making-of featurette that certainly took me back to a simpler time. It doesn't quite pack the same satisfying winks as the first Urban Legend, but it's a worthy entry into what turned out to be a surprisingly fun-filled series. 

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