MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD!
Merry Christmas Eve you drunk sumbitches. No, strike that, make it a Mary Christmas...Mary Elizabeth Winstead, that is! As far as new generational scream-queens are concerned, is there a prettier package to unwrap than the gorgeous and talented Ms. Winstead? I truly doubt it. I mean, over the course of the last decade or so, Mary has shown tremendous range throughout the horror genre - from damsel in distress, to badass heroine - in flicks such as THE RING TWO, FINAL DESTINATION 3D, BLACK CHRISTMAS, DEATH PROOF, THE THING, and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. In fact, Mary actually got her start on the small-screen, via the unseen horror series "Wolf Lake" that ran for one season during 2001-2002.
Yup, Mary has been a horror mainstay over the course of her young career, and we couldn't be prouder. In my eyes she's a younger, sexier, more zaftig Sigourney Weaver! But don't get it twisted. Just because the girl is a drop dead looker, it doesn't mean she can escape the knife. Friends, let's skip to dessert and Dissect the delicious Mary Elizabeth Winstead!
Keeping with the holiday theme, it only seems right to spotlight MEW's work in the somewhat overlooked BLACK CHRISTMAS redo. First off, as far as horror remakes go, and recent ones at that, BLACK CHRISTMAS rates favorably when compared to say, the lot of lame-ass Platinum Dunes rehashes. But even more impressive than that, is the way, even among a sorority-house full of nubile hotties (Katie Cassidy, Michele Tratchenberg, Leela Savasta, etc.), Mary not only stands out with her natural beauty, but with her acting chops as well. Even in limited action she clearly separates herself from the pack in the film, which is surely the reason why she's continued to get steady work - starring and supporting - in (and out) the genre ever since. And while it was utterly blasphemous to even try to remake such a venerated horror classic (RIP Bob Clark), at least Mary acquitted herself well in the film.
In fact, and here's perhaps what I love most about Mary's horror career, she only decided to take on the role of Heather in BLACK CHRISTMAS because she was such a huge fan of the original. Word is, she was approached at the airport by her FINAL DESTINATION 3 writer Glen Morgan (who would direct) at 3:00 AM to play the role. She expressed her love of the 1974 Bob Clark version and agreed. How dope is that? I mean, it's rare enough that a girl that fine is even a fan of horror in the first place, but such great taste as well?
Seriously, peep the following quotes she once gave:
"I'm a big fan of horror films - there's always something to be excited about and get invested in. Some of the first horror films I saw were The Shining (1980), Alien (1979) and Rosemary's Baby (1968), which have become three of my favorite films ever."
She whittles it down:
"It's a tossup between The Shining (1980) and Rosemary's Baby (1968)" It's probably "The Shining"; that one terrifies me more than any other film and has since I was a kid. Anytime it's on TV, I'll leave it on for the whole movie and I get so drawn into it. It's just amazing."
Can this girl get more perfect?!?
While I've never actually seen Mary give a bad performance (loved her in SCOTT PILGRIM), when you have on your resume a TV movie called MONSTER ISLAND - starring Carmen Electra and Nick Carter - yeah, you're gonna catch some hell. Made in 2004, Mary got third billing, in a meta-horror attempt about a small MTV film crew sent to the Bermuda Triangle to record the vacation of six contest winners. As you might guess, things start to get awfully macabre. Ghastly ghouls and massive monsters of all kinds start to overrun the island, and the crew must do all they can to not only survive themselves, but to save Carmen Electra from harm as well. Problem is, despite the fun of the self-referential cheese and Scooby-Doo vibe, the flick is rated PG, almost entirely devoid of the kinds of graphic horror Winstead would eventually graduate to. And it stars Nick fucking Carter!!!
Aside from the physical - the sexy gravel-voice, big brown eyes and zaftig figure - it seems Mary's been building a trademark of playing tough, sometimes off-kilter leading ladies. Hell, even in her own words, she's expressed "you don't have to play masculine to be a strong woman." That certainly seems the case, for even when she lops her hair off (a la SCOTT PILGRIM) or plays badass lead characters (THE THING), she's never overly masculine. Let's be honest, how could she be? Instead, Mary seems to embrace her natural beauty and use it more as a weapon rather than a crutch when it comes to playing formidable roles. Props!
Since she's starred in some pretty high-profile horror sequels and remakes, it's kind of hard to mine a hidden gem in Mary's genre career. So, if you want to see how aplomb her acting chops actually are, I strongly urge you to check out her heart-wrenching performance in last year's festival hit SMASHED. Trust me, as someone who's dealt with alcoholic family members, I can attest that nothing is more horrifyingly shattering - not even the scariest horror movie - than what the ills of addiction can bring. Real shit.
Co-starring Aaron Paul (yeah bitch!), SMASHED centers on a young couple whose so-called love is entirely founded on their constant inebriation. It's the literal high-life for these two, always. Until they sober up, that is. Well, until one of them does.
In an awfully demanding turn, one that calls for her to register every emotion - from happy, sad, drunk, hung-over, mad, embarrassed, triumphant, hopeful, regretful. But most, there's a true vulnerability in Mary we've never seen onscreen before, and for that, I can't recommend this flick enough.
Mary currently has a number of projects in the works, ranging from dark drama to light comedy. But if I had to single-out one to focus on, it might just have to be a fascinating movie called FAULTS, written and directed by Riley Stearns. Peep the official synopsis:
Claire (Winstead) is under the grip of a mysterious new cult called Faults. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire's parents recruit one of the world's foremost experts on mind control, Ansel Roth.
A couple of things to be excited about here. First off, the premise. Mysterious cults? Yup, I'm already terrified. Secondly, Mary gets to play the lead role here, which is a trend that has continued since carrying THE THING on her back in 2011. And lastly, perhaps most importantly, this marks a creative reunion for Mary and filmmaker Riley Stearns, who happens to be her husband. You see, back in 2011, Mary starred in Stearns' short horror film MAGNIFICAT, which is essentially a 13-minute exercise in hallucinatory madness. Well after two more shorts, FAULTS, currently in post-production, marks Stearns' feature debut. I'm expecting big things here, especially when considering the supporting cast of Lance Riddick, Leland Orser, Beth Grant and Jon Gris. Keep your eye out for the flick to drop sometime next year.
What's not to love about Mary Elizabeth Winstead? Over the last decade, she's clearly carved a niche as a new generational scream-queen, lending instant credibility to whatever genre project she partakes in (including the last two DIE HARD flicks). But that's hardly the limit for such an immense talent. As you can tell by her recent and upcoming slate of projects, Mary seems hardly content doing merely horror remakes and sequels. Dramatic turns in stuff like SMASHED, THE SPECTACULAR HERE AND NOW, THE QUARRY, KILL THE MESSENGER etc. are really starting to showcase Winstead's acting chops. In short, she can do it all. And maybe the best part? Even more enjoyable than seeing her onscreen, it's great to know Ms. Winstead is just as big a horror film fan as the rest of us around here. You rock, Mare!