AMERICAN MARY (2012) Review

Directed by: Jen & Sylvia Soska
Starring: Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk

After arriving at Monster Fest’s closing night and watching Isabel Peppard’s beautifully crafted stop motion short BUTTERFLIES, Monster Pictures’ Neil Foley assured the audience that the next film to screen would be unlike anything we’d seen before. I have a habit of not taking these types of claims too serious because more often than not they turn out to be complete bullshit. However in this instance I’m glad to say that Neil was right on the money because AMERICAN MARY turned out to be not only an incredibly unique and unconventional horror movie but also easily one of my favorite films of the year.

AMERICAN MARY is the latest feature from Canadian directors Jen & Sylvia Soska who broke onto the scene a few years back with their incredible indie film DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK which has since become a firm favorite for genre fans. But as good as that movie was AMERICAN MARY is such a huge step up in almost every way. I’ll go over the plot and then get to the rest of what makes this film so brilliant.

Mary Mason (Isabelle) is a young woman making her way through medical school with hopes of being a surgeon. She is doing well with her schooling but finds herself in financial trouble so applies for a job at a seedy club in a bid to make some fast cash. Midway through her interview there’s some trouble and the club owner invites her downstairs to do some impromptu surgery. At first she resists but eventually succumbs to the temptation of five thousand dollars cash in hand. This backroom surgery opens a door to Mary through which she discovers the hidden world of extreme body modification.

As much as the plot might suggest otherwise, AMERICAN MARY does not dwell too heavily on gore. That's not to say there isn't plenty of up close and explicitly graphic scenes, but the Soska sisters know when to hold back so that the main focus is upon Mary and her story'. A story which not only includes some extreme body modification but also a rape & revenge thread and a police investigation and so much more. AMERICAN MARY is indeed an intricate and multi-faceted film but not so much that it becomes too difficult to follow or enjoy.

One of the most interesting and pleasant aspects of the film is the way that the body modification culture is treated with dignity and respect rather than revulsion and unfair judgement, indeed one of the messages the film seems to convey is the idea that people could be accepted and accept themselves for who they are. And this doesn't just apply to her patients but to Mary herself who while she may not have the most stable and conventional lifestyle seems to embrace her new-found identity.

Technically AMERICAN MARY is easily one of the more impressive movies I have seen all year and in particular with regards to its use of cinematography and lighting to create atmosphere. The make-up and practical effects are also top notch thanks to the award winning efforts of Masters FX. And of course I cannot fail to mention Katherine Isabelle's acting which was even more impressive than I would have expected, now there's an actress who deserves a lot more recognition.

Put simply I have not seen a genre film (or film of any kind) in years which I have found this impressive, enjoyable and original and especially with it being only the second feature from a pair of film-makers. The Soska sisters are definitely a pair to look out for in the future and AMERICAN MARY is in my opinion a must see film for genre fans.

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