Directed by Mary Lambert. It’s 1969, and unpopular Mary (Lillith Fields) is going to the dance with popular jock Willy. Of course it’s all part of a prank, the idea being to drug Mary and two of her friends, then ditch them. Unfortunately Willy ends up knocking her out, then stuffing her in a trunk and leaving her for dead. Flash forward to 2005. Samantha (Kate Mara) and her friends at the school newspaper have just published a less than flattering article about the football team, complete with embarrassing photo. So three players and one of their girlfriends kidnap the girls, drug them with Rohypnol, and ditch them. Mary comes back to teach the bullies a lesson by urban legend, with methods as gruesome as they are impossible. Samantha and her brother David (Robert Vito) figure out what’s going on, and with the help of Mary’s old friend Grace (Tina Lifford), find out that the only way to stop Mary is to find her corpse and bury it.
I like the film, but it’s problematic. To begin with, it’s not really explained why Mary goes after the contemporary pranksters; why not pursue the guys who were mean to her? And how does she even know who her victims are—does she get the school newspaper delivered to her trunk? And why use urban legends? If she were more like the mythical Bloody Mary, then maybe that would make sense. But she’s just a vengeful ghost that happens to be named Mary. Furthermore, as an urban legend geek I must point out that most of the legends she copies originated after she died in 1969 (thank you, Encyclopedia of Urban Legends)—but maybe she gets press newspapers delivered to her trunk, too.
Then there are the urban legends themselves. Most of the good ones have been used by the first two films in the series, so the ones in this movie leave something to be desired. They use “The Licked Hand” (the one when the girl thinks her pet dog is licking her fingers only to later find out that her dog is dead and a crazy guy was licking her hand). The story is creepy as hell, and one of my favorites. But the person being licked in the story doesn’t die, so the guy in the movie has to have something extra happen that’s not even based on the legend. Then there’s the guy who dies in a tanning bed, which is based on the legend of the woman who cooks her insides from tanning too much; again, she doesn’t die (instantly), so the legend has to be embellished until it’s basically a rip-off of the tanning bed scene in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Also used is “The Spider Bite” (the one when spiders lay eggs in a girl’s face). That one is pretty close to the legend (made even more brutal and horrible by full-grown spiders rather than babies—it’s the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in a while. I just dislike that the scene involves the girl being gratuitously stripped to her frilly underthings.
Moving along, another gripe is that the antagonists aren’t evil per se. They play a prank; it’s hurtful and wrong, but do they really deserve to die horribly over it? They’re not like the standard high school bully characters that just beg for someone to come along and murder them. And then of course there’s the standard Black-lady-who-explains-everything character. At least she’s not in a subservient position this time.
Despite my many complaints, they don’t ruin the film for me, and I don’t think the movie is terrible. The actors can act, the characters are fairly likable, and Mary is pretty creepy. The special effects are decent. Normally I whine when sequels don’t follow the plot-line or have anyone from the original film or change the title from singular to plural, but making the storyline supernatural gives the series (and even the vengeful ghost genre) a fresh twist. Watch for Rooney Mara (my favorite Mara) as Classroom Girl #1.