Dead Mary cover

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STUDIO:
PeaceArch

MSRP:
$19.95

RATED:
NR

RUNNING TIME:
103 Minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Music video

"Making-of" featurette

Trailer gallery

The Pitch

"It’s
like The
Thing
. It’s really like The
Thing
, only it’s in the woods."

The Humans

Dominique
Swain (Alpha Dog), Jefferson Brown, Maggie Castle, Reagan Pasternak (Breach).

The Nutshell

Six old
college buddies, and one tag-a-long girlfriend, meet up at a cabin in the woods
to spend a weekend renewing their rapport and possibly having sex with each
other. Unfortunately, a sackload of secrets and white lies give the whole event
a chilly air. To break the cold, the recent grads play a little game that has
always been called "Bloody Mary," but here is called "Dead
Mary," because there have been too many movies titled the former.

Dead
Mary, as it turns out, inhabits dead people and brings them back to life,
supplanting their brains with her/its own malicious intent. Who can you trust
when all your old friends may or may not possess the spirit of a vengeful anthropomorphic
personification? Nobody, that’s who. So arm ‘em all, and let the blood flow.


I just had a great idea. Fortunes on cigarette papers.
We’ll sell the space to life insurance companies.

The Lowdown

Dead Mary starts out strong. Really strong.
Strong enough to make me start to wonder if I had hit an accidental gem, which
happens once in awhile around here. The characters are varied and distinct,
their relationships painted briskly but with the light, ambiguous strokes that
allow for constant revelation throughout the film. The opening sequence is an
extended series of shots with no dialogue, increasing tension, and beautiful
sound design. The cinematography and sound editing continue in that mode, impressing
all the way. Hell, the first thirty minutes don’t even feature any horror —
just awkward reunions between people who had once been friends, and now hold
secrets from each other. That could be a curse for some horror fans, but I saw
it as indicative of a human-focused morality play.


"Guys! I think my divining rod is broken!"

I was
wrong. When the horror starts, the characterizations are shot to hell. Logic
goes flying out the window and lands in a crumpled heap on the ground. Artificiality
becomes the fallback plot element of choice. I’m not against artificiality in
genre flicks; some of my favorite horror — the stuff I can return to over and
over — is made up of unlikely events and plastic characters. What irks about Dead
Mary
is the sudden shift in gears, the abandonment of the considerable
interest that the first act has built up.

Through a
bit of dialogue cut-and-pasted from The Thing, it is revealed that the
spirit that haunts the characters can take on their forms after killing them. All
right, you might say to yourself. We can do this. An hour of solid tension and
paranoia can be a rewarding horror experience. You’d be right, but you don’t
get an hour of that. You get about ten minutes before the script reveals the
first villain. The ones that follow get no more than a few lines before their
evil natures are revealed. Think the blood-testing sequence in the thing,
except the audience knows exactly which sample is going to leap out of the
Petri dish.


Fooled you all. This is the only actor in the whole film!

Dead Mary begins with a round cast of
good qualities. As the movie progresses through the acts, more of those
qualities are shot dead and left by the wayside. The only horror in the film is
that the audience feels for everything positive the filmmakers intended, now
bleeding out into the dust. The cinematography ends up being the brave little
survivor all the way to the end, but by the end he is wholly alone and looking a little pale.

The Package

The disc
contains a brief, uninformative making-of featurette, in which intentions are favored
over facts, and an amateur music video for a song called "We Are
Here." Also, a trailer gallery.

4 out of 10