It goes like this: local ghost stories, “real” or imagined, usually make for lame movies. Except for the occasional “Blair Witch”, the first one of course, I consider townie tales of ghouls and goblins not much better than John Grisham novels, in terms of crappiness that is. Sadly, “The Legend of Resurrection Mary” is no exception to the rule. This is yet another humdrum, though oddly faithful addition to the genre: not particularly awful, but certainly not worth its weight in ectoplasm. What may set “Resurrection Mary” apart, if anything, is that it purports to recount, perhaps obsessively so, an honest-to-gosh “real” ghost story. Well, whoopee, I guess, unless you’re a proud local or just really into this sort of thing.
I’m not from Chicago, but if I were, I would’ve undoubtedly heard of the legend of Resurrection Mary, the city’s most famous ghost, or so I’m led to believe by the ever-reliable Ghost Research Society (www.ghostresearch.org). (Yes, there is such a thing! Yet another fascinating tidbit I’ve learned while writing for Film Threat!) According to the legend, sometime in the late 1930’s, a beautiful young woman (blonde, blue-eyed, the works) was walking home from a dance after getting into an argument with her boyfriend when she was struck and killed by a hit and run driver. Ever since, locals and passers-through alike have claimed to see or even meet a girl in a long white dress and blonde hair hitchhiking for rides near the creepy Resurrection Cemetery, not far from the scene of the crime. Or so the story goes. And… that’s it, that’s the legend of Resurrection Mary. The stuff of cinematic gold or just some uninspired campfire bullshit? You be the judge.
Okay, so there’s a little more to the story. It involves the first of a surprisingly long list of people, mostly men, claiming to have made contact with Mary’s ghost throughout the past six decades. Jerry Palus was the lucky number one and “Resurrection Mary” is basically a recreation of his story, with other bits of Mary lore thrown in for good measure. Palus’s story seemingly set the precedent for other Mary tales to come, and goes something like this: boy sees babe in bar. Boy dances with babe some, makes out with her some more. Boy notices babe is deathly cold and a little pale. Boy doesn’t care because boy wants some a*s. Boy gives babe ride home. Boy shocked when babe suddenly vanishes, leaving him with balls as blue as her. The other bits of Mary lore are all variations on Palus’s story and are presented here as first person “accounts”.
After starting off promisingly with a brief prologue on Mary’s death, the film takes a fatal turn with a cringe-worthy foreword about mortality and restless spirits that sounds like the intro to yet another wretched reality show from Fox. It’s a trivial moment in the film, but one that nonetheless sets the tone for things to come. That quickly established tone is one of awkwardness and icky, retro-gothic shmaltz. The biggest problem is that the film’s writer/director Kevin Rhoades doesn’t seem to know if he’s making a horror movie, a love story or even a pseudo-documentary on the Mary phenomenon. The other problem, besides the icky, schmaltzy muzak, is that the story of Jerry Palus is just not that interesting. It seems to me that unless you’re an aficionado of urban legends like this one, you’ll find little credence in a story that probably has a million variations in a million different towns and that are probably all bullshit anyway. Perhaps with a larger palette and a different spin on the legend, the film would… nah, this one’s bound for Resurrection Cemetery either way. Even game performances by David Cooper as Palus and Frankie Keane (a Naomi Watts clone) as Mary can’t resurrect this deathly dull short.