American Mary – Jen and Sylvia Soska – 2012

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I like the Twisted Twins. Jen and Sylvia Soska are gracious and eager to give hugs, not to mention the impression (ahem) they gave me as I first saw them standing at Fantastic Fest. They were wearing a black Spider-man mini dress, and blue and yellow Wolverine mini dress.

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Sure, they were every geeks dream, sexy and smart, but could they make a film? I wasn’t sure.

By the time I left American Mary my doubts had vanished and I was excited about a pair of new, female directors. The Soska’s while still finding their feet a bit, have delivered a fun, sexy, gruesome yarn that’s sure to tickle any self-respecting horror fan pink. Mary Mason is a med student with a full brain and an empty wallet. Having trouble paying for her classes Mary tries a seedier path to cash, but is roped into an emergency surgery performed by a low-level lowlife. One thing leads to another and soon Mary is making money through the strange world of body modification.

One of the great things about the film is its treatment of the body mod world/scene and the people who inhabit it. These outwardly expressive folks are a proxy for the filmmakers and artists everywhere who use less than conventional means and go to some fairly extreme measures to reflect what they choose into the world. Mary begins the tale as a cynic, but comes to like and even care for these people who seem to be misfits and outcasts. In fact, the film plays these people as more moral than the doctors Mary studies under, an easy thing that when your professor is a rapist.

Katherine Isabelle’s Mary goes from uptight girl next door to confident hell-raising surgeon in heels through the course of the film and the transformation is believable, both through the context of the story and a credible and subtle shift in behavior by Isabelle. By the time the 3rd act rolls around, Mary kind of scares me. She enjoys what she does and what she does is FUCKED UP.

The gore in the film is exceptional and the film is shot and edited in slick, stylized beats and colors, never attempting verisimilitude of reality. The logic and motivations present here are the reason of a Horror Film Universe and that’s one of the freshest and most fun and sexy things about the film. One doesn’t ask why Mary operates in heels, one simply enjoys it.

If I have a problem with the picture it’s that the third act problematic rears its head so late. By the time this threat came around, I had forgotten that thread, and though it is fairly necessary so as not to completely condone Mary’s actions, a slow drip of this villain might have improved the tension a bit.

I’m sure American Mary will find an audience, it delivers everything a future horror classic has to offer, fun characters, righteous vengeance, some very icky gore and situations. I hope that Mary will return for a sequel. Getting her on her feet was the hard part, in part two, as in the Death Wish franchise, Mary can get right to the wet stuff. Good luck ladies, looking forward to the next one.

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