Starring Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo
Written by Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Directed by The Soska Sisters
A struggling surgery student finds herself drawn into the underground world of body modification.
American Mary is an interesting film. While it has to be classified as a horror film, I feel that it plays more like a dramatic film with horrific elements. This is a film that defies classification. It is horrifying at times, strange at moments, always beautiful, and occasionally gut-wrenching. It is a borderline masterpiece of modern horror cinema. Katherine Isabelle has solidified herself as a modern day scream queen and The Soska Sisters have crafted a film that should jump start their horror careers (they just recently released See No Evil 2).
Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) is a broke surgery student with a bright future. The only problem is that she’s broke and cannot pay her bills. She goes to interview for a sensual masseuse in a strip club and finds herself operating on a tortured man for $5,000. Soon thereafter, she is contacted by one of the clubs dancers who has a friend that wants some unconventional surgery. She is then pulled into the underground world of big money and body modification.
I had avoided this film for quite awhile. The word I had heard was that it was exceedingly graphic and difficult to watch. When I finally broke down and watched it, I found that my fears were unjustified. Yes, it is graphic, but no more so than most other horror films out there. If you have been on the fence about the graphic nature of the film, don’t let that dissuade you. It is not as stomach churning as I expected.
As the film progresses, you watch Mary gradually lose her interest in the world; she is losing any connection to life as she does these surgeries that are more and more gruesome. Eventually, she is nothing more than a shell walking around. She gives up her humanity for the sake of money. She isn’t doing the surgeries for the well being of the clients. She is doing them for the quick cash she gets, but the more she acquires the more she pulls away. Near the end, she is a dead eyed husk of the person she was. The things she has seen and done had killed what she was on the inside. She is never regretful, though. She never wishes she could do something different. She becomes a soulless monster with no grief or guilt. Katherine Isabelle pulls it off magnificently. While she has been shoehorned into horror roles, and has acquire the moniker of scream queen, she does have talent to spare. I think we should just keep her talent in the horror realm, though. That is purely selfish thinking. She could go on to other roles in other genres and dominate.
The Soska Sisters, who have a cameo in the film as the Berlin Sisters, have crafted an interesting film. While there is a rape and revenge aspect to the film, it is never fully explored, instead choosing to focus on Mary’s surgical career. Of course, the rape of Mary at a party is one of the catalysts that leads her to pursuing the underground surgical career she chooses, but I felt it was never tapped to it’s fullest. There is the revenge aspect of the film as well, where she does get her comeuppance. I felt that was a little too shoehorned in, though, to be effective. While the rape, subsequent revenge, and death of her Nana add to Mary’s increasing withdrawal from the world, I personally felt that the atrocities she committed in the name of surgery had more of an impact on her. Soul crushing is the only way I can put it. Despite all of her talents and intelligence, Mary cannot save herself.
American Mary is a one of a kind film. The Soska Sisters have created a film that announces them in a big way. I find myself actually wanting to watch See No Evil 2 just to see what these two very talented sisters have manged to pull off in a franchise setting. If you are a horror fan,you owe it to yourself to check this out.
*** out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- The film was shot in 15 days.
- There are no visual effects. All of the special effects were done practically.
- Katherine Isabelle has also starred in Ginger Snaps and it’s sequels, Freddy vs. Jason, and had a pivotal role in the second season of Hannibal as Margot Verger.