It seems that as horror movies delve into sequel territory, things always start to take a predictable turn. With the horror slashers of the ’80s and ’90s, once a series had a couple of entries under its belt, we inevitably ended up with one sequel set in space. But when it comes to the post-Scream (1996) generation, it seems that when we hit the third entry in a series, it was time to introduce the supernatural into proceedings. I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006) did it by giving us an undead version of the Fisherman, now intent on getting revenge on any teenager who has ever kept a deadly secret. Even Scream 3 (2000) did it to some extent when they used undead visions of Maureen Prescott as a key part of Sidney’s character development, and to show that Maureen is always at the center of the Scream series.

And so we come to the Urban Legend (1998) series. With the first film being released just two years after Scream, Urban Legend took full advantage of the slasher resurgence of the late ’90s and gave us a very unique killer. While a furry-hooded coat may not be the most terrifying costume, the use of urban legends to take out their victims was undoubtedly a novelty M.O.. Two years later, Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000) was released, giving us a new killer, a new look in the form of a fencing mask, and a new bunch of deadly urban legends. Neither film was particularly well-received, with them both being unfavorably compared to Scream and even Scream 2 (1997), which showed that sequels could be just as strong as the original movie. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the third entry in the series, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), was a direct-to-video release, which decided to take a different approach when it comes to using urban legends as a murder weapon.

 

 

This time around, the local legend of Mary, a young woman who went missing on the night of her homecoming dance in 1969 and was never found, is merged with the well-known urban legend of Bloody Mary to give us our killer. When Sam (Kate Mara, The Martian, 2015) and her friends are discussing Mary’s myth at a sleepover, Sam decides to try summoning Bloody Mary by saying her name three times and seemingly unleashes Mary’s vengeful spirit upon the town.

So why make the move to the supernatural with this entry? With Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, it’s a move that makes complete sense to allow the film to fully embrace any urban legend on offer. The past two entries in the Urban Legend series have shown us that each kill requires a lot of effort, precise timing, and being able to predict the actions of their victims to ensure the exact setup required to mirror the urban legend. Additionally, the first two movies used up a lot of urban legends, leaving Urban Legends: Bloody Mary with a smaller pool to pick from if they wanted to create different death scenes. It may seem like a gimmick, but this switch allows the film to explore the urban legends theme more freely.

It also allows for the best death scene in the movie, involving Heather, a spot on her face that she should have left well alone, and a bucket-load of spiders. Deaths like this wouldn’t have worked with a human killer, and are something that could only be achieved by embracing the supernatural element.

 

“[…] it’s important not to let the cheesy potential of a ghostly killer put you off because Urban Legends: Bloody Mary has an important message at its core […]”

 

However, it’s important not to let the cheesy potential of a ghostly killer put you off because Urban Legends: Bloody Mary has an important message at its core about male privilege, toxic behavior, and the lack of repercussions for that behavior. The movie is directed by Mary Lambert (The in Crowd, 2000), who knows her way around undead characters and horror sequels after directing both Pet Sematary (1989) and Pet Sematary II (1992). And for the story being told in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, it’s especially important to have a female director at the helm.

As we see in the opening of the film, Mary and her friends, Gina and Grace, are the subject of a prank by the football team when they try to drug, kidnap, and dump the girls in the middle of nowhere. Because Mary puts up a fight against her date Willy, he punches her, leading her to fall and hit her head. Believing her dead, Willy hides Mary in a trunk in the school’s attic. However, much like Samara in The Ring (2002), Mary isn’t dead and dies much later after struggling to escape, creating a spirit that’s intent on revenge.


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While Sam may have woken Mary’s spirit by playing Bloody Mary, it’s also possible that Mary may have awoken and attached herself to Sam due to the similarity of their situations. Sam and her friends are kidnapped, drugged, and dumped in a deserted mill by the local football team due to a scathing article Sam wrote for the school newspaper. While all three girls escape unharmed, it mirrors what happened to Mary and her friends 35 years earlier. It even happens on the night of the homecoming dance, though the girls aren’t attending after being blacklisted by the football team.

 

 

Much like the leper colony in The Fog (1980), Mary takes a ‘sins of the father approach’ by going after the children of those involved in the prank against her and her friends. However, this works on two levels as the children of those involved just so happen to be the same people who organized the prank on Sam.

For me, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary is such an important movie because it tackles issues of privilege head-on, and shows what happens if we allow these sort of things to continue down the generations. In 1969, Mary and her friends are seemingly the subjects of the football team’s prank simply because they are a bit different. Willy pretends to break up with his girlfriend, Dawn, so he can take Mary to the prom when really Dawn is part of the prank. Much like Carrie (1976), they decide to ruin Mary’s fun night for no reason other than their own amusement, and possibly for Mary daring to have ideas above her station. They build her right up by having her believe Willy has dumped his popular girlfriend for her, which makes it all the crueler when she releases it’s all a joke. “Do you think he would ever touch you?” Dawn taunts as Mary struggles with Willy. The fact that Mary even believes Willy would want to take her to dance is enough to warrant her punishment in the football team’s eyes.

The football players are confident they won’t be punished for their actions not only because they are part of the popular clique, but also because the football team holds an untouchable status at the school. And years later, this status still stands with the football players that play the same prank on Sam and her friends. Sam becomes a target of the prank in the first place because she dares to stand up against the football players and call out the privilege they have, which is also ingrained in the school system. The players get class credit simply for showing up to football practice, and Sam believes this is an unfair standard to set.

 

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary is such an important movie because it tackles issues of privilege head-on, and shows what happens if we allow these sort of things to continue down the generations.”

 

Mary’s friend Grace refused to name and shame the people who attacked her as a teen for fear of the repercussions, and Sam and her friends are placed in the same position. In fact, the police even suggest that the girls may have orchestrated the whole thing themselves as a cry for attention because they are not popular. However, in both cases, it’s quite obvious who was behind the pranks, and the fact that the school does nothing to investigate any further, especially when it happens a second time, is disgusting.

The film also shows that while Mary ended up dead, Gina killed herself years later, and Grace is living a lonely and troubled existence, those directly involved in the attack have been allowed to flourish. Coach Jacoby is now the school’s football coach, and Willy (now referred to as Bill) is running for mayor. The fact that these men have been allowed to step into positions of power shows the way this town works, and how the social ladder of high school stays in place long after people have graduated.


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Coach Jacoby manages to pass his toxic masculinity and his sense of entitlement down the generations to his son, Buck, by telling him about the prank on Mary and inspiring him to recreate it with another ‘problematic’ woman.

Mary knows that nothing will be done the second time around, and so she takes matters into her own hands. Not only does she get to kill off the people who are involved in Sam’s attack, but she gets to punish her attackers by killing their children. She’s destroying the younger generation once she sees that they are as big a part of the problem, and teaching the older generation that they can’t let these kinds of things continue in their town because they won’t be able to get away with it forever.

 

 

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary gives us a more sympathetic killer than the other two entries in the series, as this time around, the story focusses more on Sam trying to figure out what happened to Mary and allow her spirit to rest. The real bad guys of the story are the people involved in the prank against Mary, especially Willy, who has never made any effort to reveal the location of Mary’s body and give her family and friends some closure.

The killers in the previous two Urban Legend movies have incredibly selfish motives when it comes to murder. In Urban Legend, Brenda kills off all of Natalie’s friends to torture her for her part in Brenda’s fiancee’s death. However, her first victim is Michelle, who was the driver during the accident, and surely more worthy of Brenda’s prolonged torture rather than Natalie’s innocent friends. Urban Legends: Final Cut gives us an even more selfish killer in the form of Professor Solomon, who murders a significant number of students so he can steal one of their films and escape his life of teaching. While Mary is still offing teenagers in various brutal fashions, her need for vengeance for her terrible death makes the whole thing a lot more understandable.

Overall, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary perhaps gets a harder time than it deserves, and I can see why this might be. From the outside, it seems like nothing more than a direct-to-video sequel with questionable effects and a new gimmick to try and make it stand out in the saturated slasher market. However, the themes and events that the movie deals with make it well worth a watch.


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Much like The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) and Black Christmas (2019), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary looks at challenging jock culture and what happens to vulnerable young women when authorities such as parents, teachers, and university faculties turn a blind eye to this type of toxic behavior. It teaches us about the impact of letting this problematic behavior continue, and the poisonous effect it can have on future generations. History will literally repeat itself unless someone stands up to try and make a difference, and that’s something that Mary and Sam achieve together.

What’s your favorite entry in the Urban Legends franchise? And while we’re at it, what’s your favorite spooky urban legend? Let us know by following us on Twitter, reddit, Instagram, and on The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!