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Saturday, October 16, 2010

THE LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY -- Movie Review by Porfle

A weird and irritating little horror flick, THE LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY (2008) is like a wrestling match between a bad movie and a pretty good movie, and the bad one keeps beating the pretty good one into submission.

The bad movie is about a college guy named Ryan (the boring Paul Preiss) who has terrifying nightmares every night since his sister Amy disappeared many years before.  Ryan's girlfriend Rachel (Irina Costa, in a not-bad performance) can't take it anymore and leaves him, but not before setting him up for a consultation with Father O'Neal (Robert J. Locke), a slobby-looking "unconventional" priest who resembles a cross between Jim Belushi and Peter Jackson. 

Ryan tells the padre that he thinks his sister was abducted by Bloody Mary, a ghostly hag who jumps out of the mirror if you say her name three times (shades of CANDYMAN).  Coincidentally, Father O'Neal just happens to be excavating a nearly area where he hopes to find the remains of an old Salem village in which all of the citizens were wiped out. 

Local legends, along with some recovered diaries from the time, tell of a young pregnant woman named Mary Worth (no relation to the comic strip character) who was tied to a tree and brutally slashed to death by the townspeople for adultery and heresy, and who vowed revenge.  Executed before a mirror to punish her for her vanity, the ghost of Bloody Mary now uses mirrors to strike out at the descendants of her murderers.

The pretty good movie is about what happened to Ryan's sister Amy (Rachel Taylor) and her friends on that fateful night many years ago.  Following the instructions on a website called "The Bloody Mary Game"--which, ostensibly, has already caused several previous players to vanish from the face of the earth--Amy stands before the mirror on a dark and stormy night and chants "I believe in Mary Worth" three times.  She barely survives what happens next, although she can't remember it later.  Meanwhile, some of her girlfriends are planning a party and think that the Bloody Mary game would be a perfect diversion.  Amy tries to talk them out of it but they're determined to go through with it, leading to some pretty scary consequences.

If the credits didn't list John Stecenko as the sole director, I'd swear two different guys each helmed half of the script and then jammed the disparate results together.  The present day scenes are awful--washed-out home video-style cinematography, really bad camerawork with the lens wavering around in people's faces like a gnat, annoying music, very pedestrian acting (except for Irina Costa), a couple of misplaced song montages--just generally bad.

Then we get to the flashback stuff with Amy and her friends, and the movie is well-photographed, nicely acted, and loaded with atmosphere.  Rolling thunder and constantly flashing lightning punctuate these scenes in spookily lit houses, in which unsuspecting teenage girls make ill-advised plans to tempt fate in deadly ways.  Whenever the movie switched back to the present day with Ryan and Father O'Neal, I couldn't wait for it to return to the good part so I could see how it would turn out.  Already, it was giving me a nice case of the creeps.

But just as it's building up to something that promises to be really scary...or at least pretty scary...we're dumped back into the bad part of the movie and are stuck there until the end.  Amy and her friends, and by far the only worthwhile thing about THE LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY, are frustratingly forgotten.

The Ryan story does manage to come up with a somewhat lively conclusion, but it's poorly staged and hardly the sort of thing I'd anticipated.  It's really baffling to me that director Stecenko and co-writer Dominick R. Domingo had such a good thing going with one storyline and then truncated it in favor of the vastly inferior one.  An entire movie about Amy and the other girls being terrorized by Bloody Mary in their dark, storm-ravaged houses--along with the equally interesting scenes of young Mary's trial and execution in old Salem--might've made a dandy horror flick.  But as it is, THE LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY is like a bowl of creamy, delicious ice cream topped with dog barf.

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