[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 22 – Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005)

Director: Mary Lambert
Cast: Kate Mara, Robert Vito, Tina Lifford, Ed Marinaro, Lillith Fields
Screenplay: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
93 mins. Rated R for strong violence and gore, drug use and some language.

It’s interesting to note that there are a few different fledgling horror franchises that took the supernatural route for their third installment, ultimately sending them direct-to-video in the process. One of them was I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, and another more well-known one is Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. The latter is much less egregious of a turn for the franchise, choosing a more anthological route for the series. Let’s see if it helped.

Back in 1969, a horrible act on prom night causes the death of Mary Banner (Lillith Fields, Tracker, Treasure State). Thirty-five years later, the story of Mary Banner has been passed around into urban legend as the fabled Bloody Mary. Samantha Owens (Kate Mara, Fantastic 4, TV’s A Teacher) and her friends tell their version of the story at a sleepover, but when the morning comes, the girls have gone missing. When they find their way home, they discover that the bullies they believe responsible for the “prank” are being picked off, one by one. Or is there a larger reason for the deaths?

The first two Urban Legend films are heavily influenced by the slashers of the 90s, but this third installment goes in a completely different direction, aiming toward ripping off the J-horror remakes like The Ring and The Grudge. This is the most obvious and notably lazy element of the film, but it is not the only aspect to be completely stolen from better films. I saw a lot of Prom Night II here along with bits and pieces of Final Destination (the influence of music and Rube Goldberg-style deaths) along with A Nightmare on Elm Street (the back-from-death killer searching out the children of those who wronged her). Add in that, some poor writing, acting, directing and a heavy dose of lazy CGI, and you have Bloody Mary. It’s frustrating to see a film without any new ideas being placed in a once-innovative series of horror films.

I’m actually completely fine with the shift into supernatural horror, but this film just didn’t accomplish the task. I would’ve loved to see them turn the series into standalone anthology-like films covering each of the urban legends that influenced the killers in the first two films. It would’ve been a pretty cool cinematic universe a few years before it became the IT thing to do in Hollywood. If they had done something interesting with the legend of Bloody Mary by taking their favorite elements of the story and setting it within the framework of the first two films, tying it into the locations and characters that we know from the previous films, you maybe could see something fascinating come out of this series, but we never get that, and the film is rather forgettable. I’ve seen it three times since 2005, and I struggle to remember any of it after more than a few days.

Kate Mara underwhelms as Sam. Unfortunately, she isn’t written all that well, and her character is dull and dumb, so I’m not even sure if she could’ve improved the material. I like her in most everything else, but I can’t see anything good in her performance or the character in general.

Director Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary, Presumed Dead in Paradise) was disappointed in the decision to move this release to direct-to-video, but I don’t see anyway this film would’ve ended up in theaters. The CGI is atrocious, and her direction is abysmal. It’s weird to see the director of Pet Sematary make such a lackluster and lazy effort. She wanted to deal with the date-rape elements of the narrative in an interesting way, but she doesn’t do that. She has these strange sequences like three teenage girls having a pillow fight at a sleepover and then telling the legend of Bloody Mary and seeing her in the mirror, and then they don’t actually use a mirror when they conjure her. In fact, does anyone actually utilize the actual legend of Bloody Mary in the finished project? I don’t think so.

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary is a supremely dull movie experience. I had convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad as I was watching it, and I even initially thought about what I would score a film that is bad but not offensively so. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that there isn’t anything good in this movie, so I will give it the most deserving score of a indefensible movie. I’m just happy that I never have to watch it again.

1/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of Jamie Blanks’s Urban Legend, click here.
  • For my review of John Ottman’s Urban Legends: Final Cut, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 4 – Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)

Director: John Ottman

Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Hart Bochner, Joseph Lawrence, Anthony Anderson, Loretta Devine

Screenplay: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson

97 mins. Rated R for violence/gore, language and some sexuality.

 

John Ottman (Lion’s Den) won an Academy Award earlier this year for editing Bohemian Rhapsody. I think it’s say to expect some pretty snazzy editing and score for this Urban Legend sequel, right?

Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison, Batman: Hush, TV’s House), a student at an upscale film school, has just decided on her thesis film: a serial killer who uses urban legends to kill his victims. The idea itself is an tall tale that supposedly happened at another university several year previously. Professor Solomon (Hart Bochner, Die Hard, Rules Don’t Apply) believes it’s a great idea, and Amy sets to work on her new film, but as soon as cameras start rolling, members of the film crew start getting killed, and it seems that life is imitating art imitating life as an actual serial killer is responsible. The question now comes to…who?

This is Ottman’s feature directorial debut, so I don’t want to be too harsh on him, but it seems like he didn’t know what to do here. It’s likely that the script wasn’t strong enough to begin with, but there’s a real lack of understanding apparent throughout the feature. It’s not a good movie, plain and simple, and while there are a couple good scenes, Final Cut is really all over the place. I know the attempt is being made at a more self-aware and slightly comedic tone, but it just comes off lazy. Ottman struggles to maintain a tone of any kind.

As I said above, the screenplay, from the writing team of Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Deliver Us from Evil) is confused a muddled. I’m not sure if the point of the film is a progression of the urban-legends-as-forms-of-murder of the first film in that the murders are taking place surrounding an almost film-version of the previous slayings or not. The killer isn’t really using urban legends to kill as often in the film, and he more or less just shows up near the set and kills people that way. It’s not really creative. In fact, an early kill scene in the film that actually utilizes a classic urban legend was only added to punch up the gore factor. There’s also a complete misunderstanding of filmmaking as a process and a business. It’s a fundamental issue that permeates the story.

The performances in Final Cut are mostly forgettable. I had forgotten Jennifer Morrison was the star until I rewatched it. Outside of the excellent Hart Bochner, no one is used well here and all of the characters become pretty flat characters just lined up for the chopping block. Even Loretta Devine (Crash, Always & 4Ever), returning from the first film, serves as an exposition machine, only showing up to progress the story and put doubt onto Amy’s claims that someone is killing her movie crew (remember that Devine’s Reese has had this happen before at a different university).

Urban Legends: Final Cut is shockingly not the final film of this series, and even though the eventual third film, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, contains no connection to Final Cut, it does seem like this entire movie was a setup for that last shot, which is a confusing doozy of a tag to end the film. I just don’t get what this movie is or what it’s trying to be, and it somehow fails to be anything at all. I forgot most of the film. You probably will to.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Jamie Blanks’s Urban Legend, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 2 – Urban Legend (1998)

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Director: Jamie Blanks

Cast: Jared Leto, Alica Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, Tara Reid

Screenplay: Silvio Horta

99 mins.  Rated R for horror violence/gore, language and sexual content.

 

If I had to classify the 1990s with a specific kind of horror film, it would most definitely have to be the slasher film. In the 90s we had classics like Scream and its sequel, we had messes like I Know What You Did Last Summer, and we had Urban Legend, which exists somewhere in the middle.

urban-legend

Urban Legend is essentially Scream in practicality, but instead of horror film staples as the moniker, we get urban legends, the scary stories that everyone swears happened to someone who knew someone they know. Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt, Two Weeks Notice, A Madea Christmas) gets entangled with the killer after several close classmates get picked off, but who is it? Is it Paul Gardener (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), the strange school paper writer, or is it best friend Brenda Bates (Rebecca Gayheart, Jawbreaker, G.B.F.), or perhaps party king Parker Riley (Michael Rosenbaum, TV’s Smallville, Hit and Run), or could it be radio student Sasha Thomas (Tara Reid, The Big Lebowski, Sharknado 2: The Second One)? The answer is simple, if you know latin. In fact, in a SPOILER ALERT but not really SPOILER ALERT note, the killer’s identity is actually revealed in the school motto in latin.

The plot and slasher tool of Urban Legend isn’t all that bad. In fact, it can have some meta connotations in that the very belief of urban legend is that they are true, so turning fiction to fact would be a very interesting to play with, but screenwriter Silvio Horta (TV’s Ugly Betty) doesn’t play with it as much as just present the idea in its plainest of ways. That’s the real death of the story in that it is wasted. The main concept becomes little more than campiness on a stick.

None of the performances are very good, nor are any of the characters very likable. The greatest win of the acting in this film comes from the many cameos associated with horror films, from Brad Dourif (Chucky the killer doll) in the opening, Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) as the professor everyone admires and fears, and Danielle Harris (Michael Myers’ niece Jamie Lloyd) as the goth dorm mate to Natalie.

Take an opportunity to enjoy the 90s soundtrack as it pulsates of musicians you might find at The Bronze from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The sets are interesting. I love the university, it just oozes creepy.

axe

My advice, watch this movie as it does have some thrills to it (the opening itself is nearly perfect) but be warned that it is far from far from perfect. You heard that correctly, far from FAR FROM perfect. That is twice removed.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more from the 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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