Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (second review)

As long as I rewatched URBAN LEGEND and URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT I figured I should complete the trilogy. Maybe you weren’t aware that there was a DTV part 3 called URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY. Or maybe you were a reader of The Ain’t It Cool News in May of 2005 and read my review of it back then. While the other two came from new directors, the DTV sequel comes from a veteran: Mary Lambert (PET SEMATARY 1 & 2). I wonder if any dudes ever accused her of “stealing my genre” like happened to the young director heroine of URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT? At the time I made a bigger deal about screenwriters Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris, because they’d written the then-upcoming SUPERMAN RETURNS, and in those days the internet seemed to attract people who were very opinionated about Superman movies. Hard to imagine it ever happening again.

While BLOODY MARY does briefly make reference to the events of the other films – murders on college campuses based on different urban legends – they mix up the premise quite a bit. It’s about high school kids in Salt Lake City who accidentally summon an evil spirit by saying “Bloody Mary” five times, and then (oddly) she kills people in methods based on urban legends. When they discuss the idea of saying “Bloody Mary” into a mirror somebody points out that it’s like CANDYMAN so that another character can point out that CANDYMAN got the idea from the urban legend. Actually kinda smart to address that right away just so people not familiar with the legend don’t think this is a rip-off a way better movie about urban legends than any in this series.

Isn’t that weird that they go supernatural for part 3? It’s almost like the HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH anthology approach. Actually it’s most like HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, because it opens with dirty deeds during prom night 1969 and then the people involved are still in town to be avenged in the present. Some terrible dudes from the football team drug their dates and try to drag them into a car to rape them, but Mary Banner (Lillith Fields, DEAD NOON) tries to run away from them, hits her head during the struggle, and dies, so they hide the body and pretend not to know what happened to her.

35 years later, Sam Owens (Kate Mara, TADPOLE) is unpopular because she embarrassed the current football team in a school newspaper story (just like TAMARA, released not much later). She skips the prom to have a sleepover with her friends, and that’s when they do the Bloody Mary chant thing. The next morning Sam’s mom (Nancy Everhard, THE PUNISHER) and twin brother David (Robert Vito, SPY KIDS 3: GAME OVER) can’t find the girls, they don’t show up at school, and they’re missing for a few days until the police find them locked in a building somewhere not remembering what happened. It’s weirdly similar to the setup of THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER, even down to the police testing and confirming that they weren’t sexually assaulted, except in this one it turns out they were drugged and abducted (but that’s all, I guess?) by evil jocks in retaliation for the article.

Then the jocks start getting hunted down by Bloody Mary, the angry ghost of the young lady killed by the previous generation of athletics enthusiasts. One of her victims, Roger (Brandon Sacks, no other credits) likes to go to the tanning salon, where he gets stuck and extremely overheated. I enjoyed the cut from his barbecued corpse to his funeral.

Sam’s former friend, now jock girlfriend Heather (Audra Lea Keener, “Melissa the Call Girl,” PRIMARY SUSPECT) pretends to want to be her friend again just to tell her “what happened to you was a prank,” trying to minimize it. Sam doesn’t bite, but you know who does? A spider that crawls out of a scary doll’s mouth and lays eggs in Heather’s face while she’s asleep. This is by far the best part of the movie now and apparently was when I reviewed it the first time too. It’s mostly if not all digital FX and certainly not photorealistic, but it looks surprisingly good for a DTV movie from 18 years ago. All these spiders start crawling out from under her skin and all over her and her room, and that’s gross enough, but then she falls face first into the mirror and has shards protruding from her forehead. And then she tears off her face and there’s just an impossible swarm of spiders inside. It’s genuinely disturbing. I don’t like it. But it’s great. Cut to funeral #2.

Dead kid #3 is Tom Higgins (Nate Herd, “Jock #1,” VENGEANCE [2006]), the funniest looking varsity football player, the one with the bangs and hoop earrings who thinks he sees Bloody Mary in the road one night so he swerves and crashes his pickup but then realizes there’s no one there so he finishes his beer, grabs another from the cooler in the back, walks over to piss on a high voltage fence and blows his dick off. We get to see him flying through the air and laying dead in the road with smoke coming off his exploded crotch. Pretty good scene. Movies are good. Do not underestimate their power to heal and inspire.

Another one, Buck (Michael Coe, one episode of America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back), experiences a couple different urban legends on his last night alive, but the more memorable thing is that he spends it in a cheap motel drinking a forty and watching scrambled porn while his farting dog licks his hand. He seems okay with it but in my opinion not a good way to top off a short life.

Although it’s the assholes that are in danger, Sam has been hallucinating Bloody Mary coming out of her mirror and finding clues about her disappearance in ’69. After doing some research on the library computer (accurate 2005 detail: they go to school to use the faster modem) they track down the only surviving victim, Grace Taylor (Tina Lifford, BLOOD WORK, A GIFT FOR CHRISTMAS, A CHRISTMAS TO CHERISH, A HOLIDAY IN HARLEM). So that we’ll recognize her, she hasn’t changed at all – still has an afro, greets them at the door with “Free Angela Davis!,” drives a hippie bus, smokes from a giant bong. And she’s an artist whose paintings and drawings predict the deaths that will happen in the movie.

There’s a bit of an A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET thing here where the teens are being terrorized by a supernatural force that was caused by a dark secret from their parents’ time. So they can’t really count on the help of the adults due to both lack of belief and attempted coverups. Poor Sam and David took the name of their stepdad, Bill Owens (Ed Marinaro, Joey Buttafuco from AMY FISHER: MY STORY), even though they hate him. He’s some sleaze everyone in town knows because he’s running for mayor. Their mom seems nice, but suspect for being in love with that guy. Maybe the one to worry about most is Coach Jacoby, thought, because he’s played by Don Shanks (Michael Myers and The Man in Black in HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS).

When they connect BLOODY MARY to URBAN LEGEND and URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT there are some real continuity issues. The headline on a newspaper article the twins find says, “Serial killer arrested at Pendleton University,” but remember that in the movie Brenda (who was probly more of a spree killer) was not arrested, but dumped into a river and shown to have survived and re-enrolled in the school under a different identity. In part 2 Reese says the university covered up that the murders happened, and we see that Brenda is still at large, either working or disguised as a nurse. I do believe the later “Professor at Alpine University kills his own students using urban legends as his m.o.” is more accurate.

I think it’s also supposed to be a reference to the first film when David compliments Grace by comparing her to Foxy Brown. Would’ve been funny if they got Loretta Devine to come back as Reese and just made her have a past connected to these characters.

Despite what I said in my original BLOODY MARY review, they never did figure out how to kill someone with pop rocks in these movies. The first one had a big scene about that myth but it was just a lecture hall demonstration. I hope the reason we haven’t had a legacy sequel, reboot or remake yet is because they’re in a lab somewhere trying to figure out how to really do it. Anyway, of the few people who saw and enjoyed BLOODY MARY, the main thing they seem to appreciate is that it makes use of more famous urban legends than the other two movies do.

Since this was DTV they didn’t have the same ambition to cram as many it boys and girls as they could into the cast. Nobody from a popular TV show, mostly unknowns. But it still ended up being an early credit for some pretty big names. Apparently Olesya Rulin, who plays one of Sam’s slumber party friends at the beginning, played a character in the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL movies. And of course there’s Kate Mara. She’d already done some movies, including big ones like RANDOM HEARTS (1999) and a major role in TADPOLE (2002), but I believe this was her first lead. Since working with Lambert in this humble DTV part 3 she’s been directed by Ang Lee, McG, Antoine Fuqua, Brad Anderson, Jon Favreau, Danny Boyle, Ridley Scott and David Fincher.

Also, check this out:

It’s Kate’s younger sister Patricia, now known as Rooney Mara, in her first credited role, “Classroom Girl #1.” Seven years later she’ll get her first Oscar nomination. Since BLOODY MARY she’s been directed by David Fincher, David Lowery, Spike Jonze, Todd Haynes, Jim Sheridan, Terrence Malick, Gus Van Sant, Guillermo Del Toro and Sarah Polley.

The Mara sisters (who both have the middle name Rooney, from their mother’s maiden name) grew up rich because their mother’s family founded the Pittsburgh Steelers and their father’s family founded the New York Giants. Then they did this movie about supernaturally avenging two generations of rapist football players. I respect it.

The other major up-and-comer is co-writer Dougherty, who later directed TRICK ‘R TREAT, KRAMPUS and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. Harris wrote the Van Damme movie UNTIL DEATH.

Lambert was a very successful video director (she did Madonna’s “Borderline,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “La Isla Bonita” and “Like a Prayer,” for example) before and after PET SEMATARY made people like me think of her as a horror director. She did the PET SEMATARY sequel, an episode of Tales From the Crypt, the anthology show Strange Frequency, and the kids movie HALLOWEENTOWN II: KALABAR’S REVENGE, but BLOODY MARY was her return to straight up feature film horror. Subsequent works include THE ATTIC, MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID, and an episode of Step Up: High Water. Unsurprisingly she has recently done some Christmas movies: A CASTLE FOR CHRISTMAS (2021) and BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER! (2023), both for Netflix. It’s a living!

In conclusion, URBAN LEGEND(S) is a thoroughly okay trilogy. They take a premise that seems really promising at a glance, show that maybe it’s not that strong after all, but find three different ways to approach it, with mildly diverting results. I enjoyed watching them again. Once every 18 or so years seems to work pretty good.

Also directed by Mary Lambert:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2023 at 12:07 pm and is filed under Reviews, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (second review)”

  1. I guess the closest analog would be Rachel Talalay, who also did a couple of big (well, -ish) movies at around the same time as Lambert (I’m talking about the pet cemeteries, not this one) and then pretty much disappeared into TV land.
    Talalay seems to have had better luck in TV projects, though. It’d have been nice to see their careers develop in the genre.

  2. Wait, so FINAL DESTINATION 3 took its tanning bed/funeral match cut from this?

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