October Horrorshow: Urban Legends: Bloody Mary

I love seeing famous people in early roles. It’s a reminder that even the most successful of us have to start somewhere, even if grandpa owns a football team. Before she played a conniving investigative reporter in House of Cards, Kate Mara was slumming it as the star of the direct to video horror flick, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. I’m reminded of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Twister, Paul Rudd in the sixth Halloween movie, Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger in that awful Texas Chainsaw flick, and, the pièce de résistance, George Clooney in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. It seems that horror is fertile ground for the stars of tomorrow. I wonder which young, struggling talent will emerge from today’s shitty horror flicks?

Bloody Mary follows Samantha Owens (Mara) and her brother, David (Robert Vito), as they try to piece together deadly events befalling the teenagers of a Utah suburb. Events began decades in the past, when a trio of sexually aggressive high school football players drugged their dates at the homecoming dance. In the kerfuffle that followed, one of them, Mary (Lillith Fields), is murdered, and the crime covered up. Flash to the present, and Samantha and a pair of friends are discussing urban legends during a sleepover, and the stalwart slumber party tale of Bloody Mary is told. Of course one of them goes ahead and says her name three times, as a joke. There wouldn’t be a movie unless someone did. Or would there? The urban legend aspect of the plot feels like it was shoved into this movie during a rewrite. It becomes clear early on that the ghost of the murdered teenager is looking to exact revenge on those who harmed her. The story didn’t need any other help. Perhaps there was a screenplay lying around and the filmmakers saw an opportunity to tweak it and attach it to a winning brand. All this is speculation, of course. Whatever the origins of this film, it hardly matters, except that it is not as seamless as maybe the filmmakers wished.

Samantha and her friends find themselves the victim of a cruel prank at the hands of another set of high school football players (this town might have a problem); drugged and locked in an abandoned factory. It’s reminiscent, sort of, of what happened to Mary and her friends, only with less harm done, and much less rape-y. Nevertheless, the perpetrators of this newest prank begin to die, one by one, in horrible accidents. The town is in chaos, and suspicions begin to fall on Samantha and David. The rest of the plot a reader can figure out on their own. More death, a weak twist or two, followed by denouement. If originality is what a viewer is after, then direct to video horror is not where they should go to find it.

But, for a direct to video release, it’s not bad. It was made with a small budget, so it had to rely on some really awful CGI, but again, direct to video. Bitching about the CGI in this flick would be like complaining that Wendy’s doesn’t serve filet mignon. Director Mary Lambert is no stranger to schlock horror, having helmed the truly awful and boring film The Attic, and a film for The Asylum that shall remain unnamed. Those two films were repellant, pushing the boundaries of what a shitty horror fan is willing to accept. Bloody Mary, by contrast, has some life to it. The tone of the film is light for something that involves so much death, yet more than once I laughed at the antics playing out on screen.

The levity was necessary, in fact, because a good portion of the cast was bad. Mara didn’t have much to work with, but she was still too good for this movie. Former football star and Hill Street Blues regular Ed Marinaro has a substantial role, and was believable. But the three youths who played the modern-day football stars who meet their ends at Mary’s hands were just futile. I couldn’t wait for Mary to kill those knuckleheads. Sometimes, actors can’t exit a movie fast enough.

Not many people are going to remember this film exists in the near future. That’s probably a good thing for Kate Mara. As for Missile Test, it represents another lost hour and a half in the service of the October Horrorshow.