Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Richard Valentine’s Bloody Mary.
I’m assuming that you’ve heard of Bloody Mary before, so I’ll spare you the recap of the urban legend. You’d think this would be an easy thing to make a movie out of. After all, it serves as the basis for at least three other films (not even counting Candyman), a scene in Paranormal Activity 3, an episode of The X-Files, and a Ludacris music video. Mirror plus name times three equals ghost, right? So how did writer/director Richard Valentine manage to overcomplicate this thing so much?
Bloody Mary opens with a group of girls sending their friend down into the dark, naked and afraid and with the intention of having her look into a mirror to call out the film’s titular character repeatedly. Since this is a horror movie, it obviously goes badly, and a spooky scary comes out and murders her. Was it a harmless prank gone terribly wrong, or were there sinister motives from the start? It’s kind of unclear. From there, we move on to the girl’s sister launching an investigation to find her. Meanwhile it seems now like the other girls are working for Bloody Mary and killing people for her? Add in plenty of senseless gore and we have a movie.
Look, this movie is a mess. I’m just going to put that out there. We’re following a murder mystery that we know the answer to, yet we get almost no answers behind the things that really matter. There are plenty of characters who are entirely pointless to the story and only exist to have gory death scenes. One of those is even the late Cory Monteith, who you may recognize from Glee. There’s tons on interpersonal drama that accounts to nothing and again what makes this all the more hilarious is the fact that the core mystery is one that we already know the answer to. The things they tell us and the things they never explain are completely backwards.
What adds to the confusion is the fact that we start off right away with our main character just having befallen a terrible tragedy. We first meet her as she’s talking about her missing sister, and this is a horrible misfire. The reason it’s confusing is because we never get a chance to get to know her before she becomes grief-stricken. We get no period of time to ease into things. Basically, we get no first act. It feels like we were dropped right into the middle of the movie, and that feels a lot like the film is giving you whiplash. It’s the same major problem I had with the Nightmare on Elm Street remake (amongst other things).
So the pacing and story are terrible. What about the acting? Well…it varies. This is a pretty low budget film and it’s really rough around the edges, so bad acting is expected. For the most part it’s pretty much on-par with other films of this quality, though I’d be hard pressed to tell you anything about any of the characters. The dialogue is awful, and while a lot of it’s spoken in a less than emotive manner, there are brief spots of complete overacting peppered throughout which make it entertaining.
The other major dissonance in the film comes with just how sleazy the whole thing is. While the story is a senselessly over-written mess of meandering plots which amount to nothing, there are a lot of odd moments and aesthetic qualities that make it more in-line with a grindhouse flick. The plot comes off like they were trying to make high art but everything else comes off like they were knowingly making an exploitation film. The deaths are about as excessively gory as they could accomplish on a shoe-string budget, and that accounts to a hell of a lot of blood flying, some absolutely atrocious visual effects, and the reuse of the same eyeball prop at least two or three times.
There’s also the nudity, which is about as forced and shameless as possible. Girl showering for the camera for no reason? Check. Girl standing in the room naked when she’s luring a guy to his death? Check. Girl scared and crying stripping down before going off to play the Bloody Mary game? A very uncomfortable check. I love grindhouse movies. I love exploitation movies. That one really felt exploitative in a gross, unnecessary, and vaguely “rapey” way. No bueno.
All of that being said, you’re probably expecting me to say that this movie is a terrible mess and that you shouldn’t ever watch it. While it is a terrible mess…I can’t honestly say that it isn’t worth seeing. The story is all over the place and just trying to understand what the hell they were thinking when they wrote it is a journey unto itself. I watched it twice just trying to wrap my head around it, and for a movie this bad, I’ve never done that before. On top of that, it’s full of cheap sleazy gore and plenty of spooky scary ghost scenes which help keep things entertaining. This is not a good movie. I repeat, this is not a good movie, but it’s a fascinating failure and it’s never boring. At the end of the day, this kind of movie is the whole reason I use the “trash or treasure” system instead of a normal rating. Don’t try to follow along and maybe you’ll have fun with it.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.