Sunday, August 4, 2013

#1,084. American Mary (2012)

Directed By: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk

Tag line: "Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional"

Trivia: Tristan Risk patterned her voice after Ellen Greene

As a follow-up to their low-budget indie film Dead Hooker in a Trunk, Jen and Sylvia Soska give us American Mary, a 2012 horror movie about a brilliant young medical student whose life takes a very unusual turn.

Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) has all the makings of a world-class surgeon. She’s one of the brightest students in med school, yet lacks the funds to pay her bills on time. To improve her financial situation, Mary applies for a job as a stripper, but when her potential boss, Billy (Antonio Cupo), notices on her resume that she’s training to be a surgeon, he offers her $5,000 to perform an emergency operation, no questions asked.

Not in a position to turn down that much money, Mary agrees. But it doesn’t end there; a day or so later, she’s approached by Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk), a woman who has undergone a series of procedures to make her look exactly like the cartoon character Betty Boop! 

It is through Beatrice that Mary is introduced to the underground world of body modification, where people will pay top dollar to have their bodies surgically altered. Mary’s first official “patient” is Ruby (Paula Lindberg), who asks to have her nipples removed and her vagina sewn shut, thus giving her a doll-like appearance.

The promise of fast cash proves difficult to resist, and Mary soon establishes herself as the top underground surgeon. But when she is invited to a party by college professor Alan Grant (David Lovgren), who proceeds to drug and rape her, Mary instead decides to put her newfound “talents” to the test to exact a little revenge.

Despite the nature of its story, American Mary isn’t particularly gory, though you will definitely cringe during some of the operation scenes (a few of which get pretty graphic). What makes it such an engrossing film is the manner in which the Soskas tackle the subject of body modification, at times drawing similarities between this underground movement and the world of so-called “reputable” surgery. While interning at a local hospital, one of her instructors, Dr. Walsh (Clay St. Thomas), tells Mary she has the makings of a “great slasher”, a term surgeons sometimes use to describe their profession. Through her experiences with Drs. Grant and Walsh, Mary discovers the “establishment” isn’t as respectable as it seems.

On the flip-side is Mary's underground practice, and as you can imagine, those seeking body modifications can be pretty bizarre at times. The Soskas themselves play Mary’s two strangest “patients” (I'll leave you to discover their sequence on your own). To its credit, American Mary refrains from passing judgment on this subgroup, choosing to shine a light on this unusual scene as opposed to ridiculing it.

Featuring a strong performance by Katherine Isabelle and an intriguing approach to its story, American Mary is an excellent sophomore effort from the Soska sisters, and as unique a horror film as I’ve seen in some time.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The Soska Sisters are a great new voice in horror...they are moving in the right direction to own their niche, so bravo to them....nice review!