28 Mar 2022
Gary Champion, Miles Triplett, Kulani Kai
Folklore-based horror meets psychological torment in Mary, a modern interpretation of an old myth that benefits from a charismatic cast, but suffers from a confusing narrative and lack of stand-out thrills.
A group of friends arrange a getaway for a weekend. In the midst of a discussion, they bring up an old folk-story – that of ‘Bloody Mary’, a ghostly-being who appears when her name is chanted. George (Miles Triplett) decides to attempt the ritual to see if there is any truth in the old story. But when he disappears that night, his brother Quint (Gary Champion) decides to take whatever steps necessary to get him back.
Mary is an interesting and indefinable feature from Khiray Richards. Best described as a horror, it also features healthy servings of drama, thriller and comedy elements that make it a unique watch. The ensemble cast and their colliding relationships and histories is a horror staple, but the time spent exploring the more personal and intimate bonds between members of the group is where the film shines – such as the relationship between the brothers of that of an abusive parent storyline. The mysterious shift in dynamics following the group’s encounter with Mary makes for an intriguing premise, which the director goes on to explore in a considered manner.
However, the film does not satisfactorily explain the key plot points of the story, and the supernatural elements are too opaque to allow for an easy understanding from audiences. The Bloody Mary legend is given an overview, but subsequent developments resulting from the group’s encounter fall on the wrong side of the line between leaving things appropriately and uncomfortably inexplicable for horror purposes, and making things so confusing that they result in viewer disengagement. The character dynamics, which are generally the film’s strongest point, get swept up within this as well, and tracking which version of which character we are seeing can become overly difficult.
The film allows for its cast to shine and is filled with memorable performances. Miles Triplett’s George feels naturally magnetic and is the source of much of the film’s humour – which is hugely important to allow for audiences to feel his absence. Gary Champion’s showing as brother Quint also stands out, as the more reserved member of the family who becomes obsessed with finding answers to the mystery of the Mary legend – whatever the cost. Special mention should also be given to J. Elliott as Hopper, who portrays both a loving and abusive father with exceptional poise.
Beyond this there is a distinct feeling that the film never really peaks or finds a stand-out, memorable moment. Its ideas and premise are interesting and the genre-mixing creates a dynamic atmosphere. But the film never really gets scary enough to stand out as a horror. It never really reaches a dramatic crescendo worthy of the relationships it has established. And the story of Mary herself is ambiguous – though still somewhat unsatisfying.
There are definitely interesting ideas in Mary – and it is refreshing to see director Khiray Richards forgo the obvious route for this modern and original horror. But a difficult plot and lack of memorable moments drag it down somewhat.