Little Mary is sugar and spice, with a side of vice. And it’s been one bloody hell of a weekend.
Swaying on a stalk between pastiche and parody, Bloody Ballad roots itself in homage to the idealised South
This endearing switchblade romance, told in retrospect through honky-tonk and sweet nothings murmured between Mary and the mysterious drifter, Connor, is a slice of 50s Americana with a blackened heart. Swaying on a stalk between pastiche and parody, Bloody Ballad roots itself in homage to the idealised South - in soda pop, bouffants and gas pumps, so neatly rendered you can almost feel the dust and magnolia clogging your nostrils while Hank Sr fills your ears with his jangling guitar.
Lucy Rivers’ fresh-faced, wide-grinned eagerness is catching; she channels Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn - a gas station owner’s daughter trying and spectacularly failing to stamp out her macabre, Carrie-like urges. Two parts sunshine to one part venom, there’s a whole lotta creepy going on. There is another star turn which comes out of the swampland blinking and spitting fire - to be saved, of course, for your own viewing pleasure.
The cast is as adept with physicality as they are with their various instruments, seguing between backing band The Missing Fingers to providing an atmospheric soundtrack to the cheerfully menacing narrative. Rivers’ original songs are stitched into the story like poodles on a skirt - you’ll be hard-pressed to keep yourself still through the blackly comedic What My Daddy Done and People Who Is Evil Gotta Die (laughs aplenty while playing fast and loose with grammar, folks). It’s a show that’s handy at adapting to spare spaces - it looks sharp, retro and stylish. It doesn’t have to try too hard to be liked. And it deserves all the word-of-mouth success it currently enjoys.
The only legitimate gripes I can muster concern the bagginess of Connor’s trousers (would Elvis have left that much to the imagination?) and the inevitable ropiness of the Southern accent to which I seem to be acutely attuned. But it’s not much, not for this welcome addition to the gorecore renaissance - the surreal, gruesome humour of True Blood with the doe-eyed sweetness of True Romance - Bloody Ballad is sweet as pecan pie. Just keep one eye (or finger) out for the razor lurking within.