Dead Mary DVD Review
Written by Eric Strauss
DVD released by Peace Arch Entertainment
Directed by Robert Wilson
Written by Peter Sheldrick and Christopher Warre Smets
2006, Region 1 (NTSC), 103 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on February 20th, 2007
Dominique Swain as Kim
Maggie Castle as Lily
Marie Josée Colburn as Eve
Michael Majeski as Dash
Steve McCarthy as Baker
Reagan Pasternak as Amber
The game of Dead Mary is simple.
You light a candle in a darkened room, and look into a mirror.
Then you close your eyes and say her name three times — "Dead Mary. Dead Mary. Dead Mary."
Open your eyes, and you'll see her.
We should be so lucky. She never shows in this movie.
I realize that's probably something of a spoiler, but the thing is, the whole movie is something of a tease. And a dull one, at that.
For 40 minutes, nothing happens. We're introduced to a half-dozen friends a decade or so out of college — a couple in a bad marriage, a couple that just broke up, one who got stood up and one who brings his jailbait girlfriend. Over that long, boring time, we're supposed to get to know them, get to care about their problems, get to appreciate their interrelationships so we can see where everyone's coming from when the paranormal shit hits the depressingly normal fan.
Trouble is, we don't. Care about them. Get to know them. Want to watch them.
So when Dead Mary takes over a character and the movie kicks into gear — turning into a (very) low-rent version of The Thing — it doesn't have the power it might have had if the characters mattered.
Because even if The Thing draws its Arctic-station personnel with broad brushstrokes, fact is, they're likable roughnecks and we want to spend a couple of hours with them.
Frankly, if I had to spend a long weekend with this crew, I'd start killing them, too.
It's a shame, in a way, because some decent performances are wasted. Dominique Swain (Face/Off) is the cover girl, because she's the recognizable name. But it's an ensemble cast, and Michael Majeski and Steve McCarthy join her in giving well-rounded performances, with both showing some real range. And in her limited role, Maggie Castle is somewhat sympathetic as the younger, out-of-place girlfriend.
But Marie Josée Colburn (too obvious), Reagan Pasternak (too wimpy) and Jefferson Brown (too underused) are done in by Peter Sheldrick's and Christopher Warre Smets' weak writing. They do well with what they have, but what they have ain't much.
Robert Wilson's directing is competent, and the film has its moments of genuine tension and drama in the second half.
But by the time those moments came, I'd stopped caring who lived or died, given up hope of any truly impressive nudity or gore, and had long since decided that if I weren't reviewing this movie, I would have turned it off.
Video and Audio:
Although crisp in places, the anamorphic 1.85:1 video has problems from the get-go. There is a general softness, shaky blacks, mosquito noise and an overabundance of edge enhancement in the opening daylight scenes, and as night falls, things don't get any better.
The English Dolby 5.1 track is decent, though very front-oriented. The surrounds are used during outdoor and tense scenes, but not as much as they might be in a more active, more encompassing mix.
"The Making of Dead Mary" is a 25-minute behind-the-scenes piece, though too much of it is recycled film footage. The highlight is a set of interviews with the various performers. It's nice to see these young actors and actresses getting a chance to talk about what they're trying to do, because they really are the highlight of the film.
(By the way, I'm not alone in the comparison with The Thing. Swain says basically the same thing in one clip.)
There is also an unmemorable music video for Evolved Monkey's "We Are Here" and the okay Dead Mary trailer, plus trailers for three dubious-looking horror films featuring past-their-prime stars: UKM: The Ultimate Killing Machine (Michael Madsen), Living Death (Kristy Swanson) and Troubled Waters (Jennifer Beals).
Good acting, bad writing — which wastes a cast that deserves better. I'd like to see what this same group of actors could do with a better script, because Dead Mary may be a game, but it's just not that fun. There are two characters repeatedly mentioned who never show up, and you're probably best off joining them in missing out on this film.
(Weapons of Choice: Mitsubishi 1080 series 42" TV, Sony DVP-CX995V DVD player, Bose Lifestyle 25 Series II speakers, Apple iBook G4 and, in certain situations, Panasonic 27" TV, Panasonic A110 DVD player and Bose TriPort headphones.)