Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Movie Review: American Mary (2012)

Even after being less than impressed with Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I was still highly curious about the next venture by the Soska Twins, sistahs in horror. It was easy to see their true love for the genre with that movie, and also their willingness to have fun with it and themselves. American Mary proves that they can also be serious about horror, and that they have the talent to make it happen in their own way.

Mary Mason is a young medical student who is strapped for cash when she's offered a lot of money to perform an unusual procedure for a woman. Becoming increasingly disillusioned with her career and life after a traumatic event, Mary throws herself into becoming an infamous underground surgeon for people who want extreme body modification procedures.

American Mary is a good ten steps above Dead Hooker in a Trunk in just about every respect. They got a fantastic actress to carry the entire film; the look of the film is beautiful with many stand-out (and sometimes shocking images); and heck, I can even see the costuming as becoming somewhat iconic. Love that black jacket that Mary wears. Anyways, I'm still a little stuck on what the title might mean, as I'm of the mind that filmmakers usually try to make their work mean something. Is it Mary's gruesome journey toward the good old "American dream" of making money and being successful? That's all I can really think of. You got thoughts, let me know.

Katharine Isabelle, who worked her way into the loving hearts of horror fans as Ginger in the werewolf film Ginger Snaps, absolutely kills it in American Mary. I'm not afraid to say that I found her sexy as hell in the role, and I think it was because she played a more subtle kind of sexy, not flaunting anything.  She wears heels even while performing surgery, and tight-ish clothes that flatter her body, but there's nothing at all slutty about her. She simply comes off as a confident woman who knows and likes herself, and there's nothing more appealing than that. Mary never loses that even after what she goes through and actually seems to use it to her advantage to make other people uncomfortable, rather than make herself more confident.

Isabelle makes the character of Mary an actually pretty fascinating one - from her turn as an intelligent woman with drive to a woman who has completely stopped caring about anything. She has a sense of humor, a sense of wickedness, but also vulnerability and emotion. At first disgusted by what she does and sees of her first two patients - Ruby and the guy that Billy tortured - after Mary is raped by one of her professors, she goes deeper into the macabre than she probably thought possible. She does what she does for the money, helping other people express themselves, but she's not doing anything to help herself. Mary rejects the obvious consolations of Billy and Detective Dolor, even though she seems to have a strange sense of loyalty or something to Billy. She's sure a quirky one, that Mary.

The film was surprisingly not as hardcore or bloody as I was expecting it to be, and it wasn't even all that disturbing. Okay, that one shot of what Mary did to Dr. Grant definitely got a little yelp of shock out of me but everything else was presented in a much more emotional way, rather than a shock you way. I liked that. The rape scene is even dealt with in such a way - it's in-your-face and it's emotionally heartbreaking as you can almost watch Mary's humanity and spirit leaving her. The whole movie is strange way to tell the story, for sure, but the Soskas manage to make it work for their purposes and their personalities and I have to give them props for that.

Though I was a little disappointed at the unceremonious end of our anti-hero and in relation the abrupt end to the movie, I still have a good feeling about this movie. It is a no doubt intriguing sophomore effort from these two filmmakers who probably have a few more gems up their sleeves before they are done with us horror fans.


  1. Just saw this pop up on Netflix streaming, I'd been holding off because I'd only read fan boy gushing so I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it. Sounds pretty solid though, I'm going to check it out.

  2. I think this is going to be tonight's pick! I started watching it a few weeks ago and was thoroughly enjoying it but unfortunately I had to run out of the house. Looking forward to finishing it up though.

    Great review! Cheers!

    Rg Lovecraft

  3. Horror fans: Don't believe the hype! Not even close to it's water marks of "May" or "Audition". Just because a film is made by atractive twin sisters and generates some buzz does not make it a good film. Sorry, somebody needs to say something about this. Mediocre at Best.

  4. Hey, do anybody know, where I can see this movie for free online? :)

  5. Sadly, I never find the film to be disturbing or at least intriguing. Yes, the plot of modifying bodies had me curious, but in the end, I just didn't care much.

    Apparently, the Soskas are back with a film of my focus: they're returning Jacob Goodnight from the grave in See No Evil 2! ((HOW?! HE HAD A SHARD THROUGH THE HEART?!))

  6. Just watched this movie last night, really enjoyed it except for the abrupt ending..I wished it was longer, (spoiler) and wish they just could have maybe incorporated the man who killed Mary a little more into the story beforehand...if you have to remind us who it is by flashing a picture..that's not good.

    But still, loved it.

  7. Jennifurla, that was the whole point of Ruby's husband. Mentioned once and soon forgotten and hidden in the back of the mind; although I feel like it was fairly obvious that something would happen with him. (This is a horror movie, remember.)
    They didn't mention him again except in the excerpt when he comes home and sees Ruby, and by then it was clear he was upset and out to have revenge. But it wasn't clear. He wasn't an obvious obstacle. He was never a threat to Mary until he appeared behind her and stabbed her in the stomach.
    TLDR: Ruby's husband wasn't supposed to be the obvious killer of Mary. There wasn't supposed to be a way to foresee that outcome.
    (The hopelessness is so archetypal in horror)