When you hear about the French and horror films these days, the conversation inevitably moves towards films such as Martyrs, Ils, or Frontier(s). In 2005, director Julien Magnat embarked on a film that broke from the macabre mold and infused campy humor into the horror genre. Magnat had already come to critical acclaim in 2002 when his short film The New Adventures of Chastity Blade was nominated for an Oscar for best short student film. The New Adventures was an escapist romp about an American housewife who escaped into the 1930’s Parisian pulp world of Chastity Blade after being shot in the head. The success of this short allowed Magnat to make his first full length motion picture.
Bloody Mallory stars Olivia Bonamy as the titular character, an agent of a French commando unit tasked to fight the various paranormal threats infecting the world. Together with her compatriots; Vena (Jeffery Riber), a drag queen explosives expert, and Talking Tina (Thylda Bares), a young child with the ability to imprint her mind on any living being; Mallory goes to investigate a convent that is being invaded with demonic ghouls. The team defeats the ghouls, but a mysterious masked woman arrives and trounces the team leaving Tina in a coma.
The same evening the masked woman also absconds with the Pope and despite objections from the Vatican, Mallory is put on the case. She tracks the disappearance to a village that had been wiped from existence and discovers that it still exists under the protection of the cult of Abbadon, a fallen angel who seeks to free all of his damned brothers. Teaming with Vatican bodyguard Father Carras (Adria Collanda), she and her team must fight the evil Lady Valentine (Valentina Vargas) and Succubus Morphin (Sophie Tellier) to prevent Abbadon from unleashing hell on Earth.
Julien Magnat describes the film on his website as “Buffy meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, and that is a fair description. However I would add in a dose of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil series and Sam Rami’s Army of Darkness as well. Going into Bloody Mallory, I was expecting to be unimpressed. My experience with French films has been that, while they do gruesome horror, drama, and action quite well, their humorous films often elude me. That was not the case with Bloody Mallory. The humor is broad, but not slapstick. In fact most of the laughs come from the visual flair of the film. Vena Cava gunning down ghouls with platform boots equipped with machine guns, Talking Tina’s tiny voice emerging from the body of a brutish cousin of the Frankenstein monster, and Mallory tooling around the French countryside in a hot pink customized hearse are just a few examples of the moments the film brought a broad smile to my face.
Of course we’re here today because of the lovely star of the film Olivia Bonamy. Olivia has been working in the French film world since 1995, but in recent years Bonamy has come to the attention of many genre fans due to her turn as Clementine in 2006’s Ils. As good as she was being the terrorized wife, she is even better as the shit kicking, fire engine red haired heroineBloody Mallory. The screenwriters definitely had Joss Whedon on the brain when they were penning this script, but Mallory is no nice girl like Buffy. She is more likely to punch you in the face and spit a biting remark in your direction. After all Mallory killed her own husband on their wedding day when she discovered that he was a demon, and she didn’t just kill him, she killed him with an axe. Bonamy makes Mallory a striking and very likeable character, and I would love to see her reprise the role. It doesn’t hurt that she spends the majority of the film in leather pants that look painted on and little else. If Bloody Malloryis France’s answer to Ash or Ms. Summers, then they’re definitely on the right track.
The supporting cast is also very entertaining to watch, and I would be remiss if I did not take some time to talk about the 6 foot tall, blue haired, Amazonian drag queen, Vena Cava. She makes a perfect sidekick for Mallory, and I loved her machine gun boots and lipstick missiles. She reminded me of what might have happened if The Adventures of Pricilla Queen of the Desert had been crossed with Manga wet dreams. This was actor Jeffery Ribier’s biggest film role to date, and it would be a shame if his charisma and comic timing was not rewarded with more roles both in and out of platform boots.
You really can’t have a great heroine without a great baddie, and for my money, Lady Valentine fit’s the bill. Valentina Vargas began her career in 1986 when she appeared in the Sean Connery film In the Name of the Rose as “Girl”. Since then she has worked steadily in films such as Hellraiser: Bloodline, and Sam Fuller’s musing on the rockstar life, Streets of No Return. On the DVD commentary, it was noted that Vargas was initially reluctant to appear in the film and only the Magnat’s constant campaigning made her accept the role. Her Lady Valentine makes a great evil counterpoint to Mallory, and their sword fighting showdown was a highlight of the film for me. She also gets a great wrap up for the character which proves her vanity to be her undoing.
If you go into Bloody Mallory looking for chills and scares, then you are unlikely to find what you are looking for. Instead be prepared for the kind of escapist flick that has made films like Project: Valkyrie or Killer Drag Queens on Dope to be favorites of mine. Through and through, Bloody Mallory delivers 90 minutes of entertainment that includes some splattery gore, sight gags, and verbal sparring between a drag queen and the Pope. Magnat is currently trying to expand his short film Chastity Blaze into a full length feature, and while I would surely like to see that, I could only wish that Magnat and Bonamy would team up again to bring the red haired paranormal busting badass back to the screen.