Directed by Robert Wilson
Produced by Patrick Cameron, Harvey Glazer, Robert Wilson
Written by Peter Sheldrick and Christopher Warrie Smets
Director of Photograpy David Mitchell
Music by Alphonse Lanza
Cast: Dominique Swain, Maggie Castle, Marie Josee Colburn, Jefferson Brown
2007/103 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from Genius Entertainment DVD
OK, here's what you need to do: Get some "Lincoln Logs" and build a log cabin. Then stock this cabin with seven action figures (see how I didn't say "dolls"?) -- three male and four female. Now, unless you are completely insane, the action figures should all sit still and do absolutely nothing. All right, you've just re-created most of the film DEAD MARY. Congratulations.
DEAD MARY sees a group of old friends got together for a reunion at a lakeside cabin. Kim (Dominique Swain) and Matt (Jefferson Brown) have been together for years. Dash (Michael Majeski) and Amber (Reagan Pasternak) are married. Baker (Steve McCarthy) has brought his new girlfriend, Lilly (Maggie Castle), who is younger than the others. And Eve (Marie-Josée Colburn) is alone. As the group arrives, they settle in, drink a lot, and discuss the fact that Kim and Matt have recently decided to end their relationship, but they didn’t want to skip this trip.
After a night of drinking and reminiscing, the game of “Dead Mary” is mentioned. In this game, a person goes into a darkened room with a lit candle. They stand in front of a mirror with their eyes closed and say “Dead Mary” three times. When they open their eyes, “Dead Mary” is supposed to appear before them. So, a few of the group take turns going into the bathroom to play the game. Nothing happens and everyone goes to bed. But, later that night, Matt disappears, and people begin to die. The group begins to suspect one another and they decide that some members of the group have become homicidal. As the night wears on, the old friends are forced to battle one another.
I’m sure that director Robert Wilson would love to say that DEAD MARY is filled with scenes which build tension and enhance mood. The truth is that is one of the most boring movies that I’ve ever seen and it’s truly shocking how nothing at all happens in most of the film. The first third of the film plays like a 20something version of THE BIG CHILL as the old friends come together and talk about their lives and relationships. It’s not until the 28:49 mark that “Dead Mary” is first mentioned. (To which Lilly says, “I thought it was Blood Mary.“ I was expecting someone to say, “Well, for copyright purposes we’ll play Dead Mary.“) But, it’s not until the 42:33 point that something which even vaguely resembles a horror film happens. To be fair, this scene is quite effective, and I thought, “Finally, this movie is through teasing us and it’s ready to get down to business.” But no, DEAD MARY returns to being a talk-fest after that, and it’s not until the 1:07:13 mark that something else happens. It’s rare for me to break down time-markers like this, but I’m trying to illustrate just how boring this movie is and how notable it is when something actually happens.
The lack of action in the film is directly related to the confused nature of the story. The movie wants to be a homage to THE EVIL DEAD and CABIN FEVER, but in essence, it’s simply a rip-off of CABIN FEVER, with a little THE EVIL DEAD thrown in for good measure. The problem with the script, as far as I’m concerned, is that it doesn’t know what it’s about. One thing that I know for sure, the movie isn’t what the DVD cover art implies that it’s going to be. The cover features a ghoulish hag-like creature emerging from a broken mirror. Nothing like that happens in the movie. If pressed, I would say that the movie is about the “essence” of “Dead Mary” being released by those who play the game, and it possesses some of the group, causing them to kill. However, this is never clearly expressed in the film. All that we see is a member of the group getting killed, which is followed by some supernatural shenanigans. Then, suddenly, everyone is arming themselves. It’s as if a scene was removed where the group decided that they couldn’t truly trust one another and thus must be ready to kill each other. The movie wants to emulate the paranoia of JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING and the “every man for himself” attitude of CABIN FEVER, but the result is a confusing mess. The movie than really goes overboard by suggesting that the events at the cabin aren’t an isolated incident and that something similar could be happening worldwide. Don’t flatter yourself. (I watched DEAD MARY with my wife and she didn’t know what was going on either.)
It’s truly a shame that DEAD MARY is such a misguided film, as it has a lot going for it. The acting is above par for a low-budget horror film and the cast is made up of a diverse looking crew -- that is, they don’t have that same stereotypical look that films of this nature present. The cabin looks like a real cabin and not just some abandoned building of which the filmmakers took advantage. The one truly effective horror scene shows off some nice special effects makeup. None of this can overcome the fact that nothing happens for most of the film.
I watch a lot of low-budget horror movies, and even in the worst ones, there are at least a few scenes that are entertaining -- even if they are unintentionally funny. However, DEAD MARY bucks that trend. This is essentially a talky drama which just happens to contain a few bloody murders. The movie is an exercise in tedium and you’ll find yourself reaching for the fast-forward button. There is one really good scene in the film (which rips off THE EVIL DEAD), but it’s not worth sitting through the rest of the film. DEAD MARY should have stayed dead.
DEAD MARY doesn’t come through the mirror onto DVD courtesy of Genius Products and Peacearch Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. I’m not sure if the movie was shot on film or in HD, but I can tell you that the transfer looks fantastic. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The picture has a very nice depth and is stable throughout. The colors look fine, most notably the green of the forest surrounding the cabin. Artifacting and edge-enhancement issues are negligible. Why does such a bad movie have such a nice look? The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track is OK for the most part, but there was some dialogue which was muffled and hard to understand (and there’s no subtitles on the DVD to assist with this). Stereo effects are fine and there were some intermittent surround effects.
The DEAD MARY DVD contains only three bonus features. “The Making of DEAD MARY” is an odd 26-minute featurette which contains comments from the cast...and no one else. The cast members talk about their characters and their experiences on the set of the film, but we never hear from the director or the writers to tell us where the idea came from (...) or how the film was made. The other two extras are a MUSIC VIDEO for the song “We Are Here” and the TRAILER for DEAD MARY.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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