Sunday, 23 October 2011



Reviewers and marketing bods both like to paint movies as A Meets B. It's a shorthand suggesting that if you liked A and B then you'll probably like C, which isn't necessarily true (I like licorice allsorts and steak and kidney pie but I wouldn't want them in the same course) and isn't always accurate. As an example, the dull Detention (not the Frightfest one which hasn't come out yet) has a blurb on the front: "The Breakfast Club Meets The Grudge", which I guess is fair on one level as it pits a bunch of teens in a detention class against a vengeful ghost, but it hasn't the character and charm of the former or the chills of the latter. This Canadian horror movie can be similarly summarised: it's The Big Chill meets The Thing, with a bit of The Evil Dead meets Waiting For Godot and Candyman. Curiously enough, it almost pulls it off.

A group of former high-school friends and their current partners gather for a reunion at a lakeside cabin. It's a particularly fraught occasion as most of them have been cheating on each other: to lighten the mood, one of them suggests they play Dead Mary - the dumb dare game where they each go into the darkened bathroom by themselves and say "Dead Mary" three times in the mirror. (By chance, they sent me Dead Mary just a day after seeing Paranormal Activity 3, a chunk of which has a little girl playing the exact same game, except they refer to it as Bloody Mary.) Like idiots, they play the game - but that night one of them is brutally murdered in the woods. It becomes apparent that they have conjured up Dead Mary, but she's possessed one or more of them. Who's really who they say they are and who's been taken over? Why won't the corpses stay dead? Recriminations, jealousies and petty squabbles abound (usually over who's slept with whose partner/spouse/ex): some are locked up or tied to chairs while they try to figure out which of them hasn't been taken over. Some want to go for help, some want to stay and wait for Ted, who mysteriously hasn't shown up yet.

Since the characters are older than the usual college idiots (although several of them don't look it) they're allowed a little more depth and bitterness, which makes for a nice change although the group's arguments frequently descend to childish taunts about who cheated with who - the "grownup" version of "but he started it". This may be more believable, but it doesn't make them more likeable or more interesting individuals (one of the great things about The Thing is that there's nothing sexual about it: the dialogue, the guys, the creature or the action) and if I wanted to watch a bunch of people getting drunk and having difficulties with their relationships, I wouldn't watch a horror movie. Since the girlfriends and wives are slim, attractive and sexy types, it just makes the guys even bigger idiots for cheating on them.

As a horror movie it's okay: it made me jump a few times and the ancient legend of Dead Mary - a genuine bit of folklore - has a natural creepiness about it. They're clearly trying to do something with a bit more depth and character than the typical teenkill nonsense filmmakers too often settle for: it's not entirely successful but at least they're trying. It takes a while to get going and spends too long with the relationship blather before wheeling Dead Mary on, and I'd perhaps have liked it a touch more if parallels with The Thing weren't so evident: there's even a point where the music score seems to echo that fabulous Morricone pulsing from the Carpenter film. And the corpse in the woods that continues to taunt the survivors is pure Evil Dead. Generally speaking it's worth a look although there's a fair amount wrong with it.


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