Lately, I’m super behind on my horror television viewing but recently I got a heads up that the latest episode of the stand-alone horror anthology series AMERICAN HORROR STORIES revolves around the legend of Bloody Mary so I could not resist checking it out. Bloody Mary was one of the many mental phantoms that haunted my young brain and seemed to follow me from home to summer camp and to every sleepover I ever attended. I was never brave enough to say her name three times into a mirror but I can tell you that just looking at my own reflection seemingly mutate while staring at it in the dark was freaky enough to force me to turn the lights back on in a frenzied panic.
This particular re-telling of Bloody Mary involves a “Monkey’s Paw” wish-granting twist to the familiar folk legend. Four teen girls, sisters Elise and Bianca (Raven Scott and ANNIE (2014)’s Quvenzhané Wallis) and pals Lena (Kyanna Simone) & Maggie (Kyla-Drew) seek out Bloody Mary (Dominique Jackson) believing that she might improve their less than ideal living situations. Mary is happy to oblige with the caveat that the gals must commit heinous immoral acts (paralyze a competitor, leak nude photos of a classmate, accuse a teacher of rape) to have their dreams come true. Declining to fulfill Mary’s request is an option as well but then she gets to fatally rip your eyes out. This moral dilemma adds a sharp new edge to Mary’s usual mirror-bound modus operandi.
Directed by SJ Main Muñoz, Bloody Mary is a fresh and twisty take on the ubiquitous campfire story. It’s got many unique curveballs to deliver while also charmingly stoking nostalgia for ‘80s/’90s supernatural slashers like the ELM STREET series and CANDYMAN (’92). There’s a fun, past-curfew vibe to the entire affair and the likable characters feel like more than cannon fodder when their numbers eventually dwindle. Our antagonist’s harrowing backstory is equally compelling and a fine job is done adding flourishes to the malleable tale many of us grew up with. Thanks to high production values, quality writing, and impressive direction this stand-alone, hour-long tale feels like it could have easily been a feature film if it was so inclined. Even if you’ve missed previous entries in this series, check out Bloody Mary, it’s exactly the kind of spooky fun the approaching Halloween season calls for.