American Mary is a rare bird. Written and created by women, filmed by women, starring women, yet concerning the world we all (men and women) live in – this film is a knock-out punch in every way. From the outside, the film feels very simple – a young, pre-med student is victimized by those she admires, and turns to the underground world of body modification to help her heal. But it’s so much more than this. American Mary is the kind of movie where each viewer will bring to it their own experiences and feelings. With that in mind, we’ll let Meg and De7en tell you what they thought of this fascinating flick.
De7en: Firstly, I must confess that I worship at the altar of Katharine Isabelle. She is always watchable. Whether she’s playing twisted sister Ginger in the brilliant Ginger Snaps, showing up in Supernatural as a tortured young woman with powers she can’t control, or anything else – she grabs my attention and doesn’t let go. While I appreciated the goofball showmanship of Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I came to this movie for one reason only: to watch Katharine Isabelle own an entire movie. And boy howdy, does she ever!
Mary Mason is gorgeous. She oozes sex appeal in the cold, aloof kind of way in which many upwardly-mobile professional women do. When we meet her, she’s clearly becoming disillusioned with the world she has been trying to enter – the world of the rich, powerful, fancy-car driving doctors she learns from in med school. She even attempts to find work as a stripper – the ultimate female student cliché – to supplement her income and keep herself in school. This ‘interview’ ultimately leads Mary down the rabbit hole into an underground world of body modification enthusiasts. The irony of American Mary is that she learns quickly that appearances can be very deceiving. The ‘pretty people’ world she used to live in is corrupt and ugly on the inside, while the ‘freaks’ of the underground are kind-hearted, generous, and protective. She suffers terribly at the very hands of those she admires in her chosen career, and becomes a hero to those she would have dismissed.
As gory, gorgeous, and mesmerizing as American Mary is (and it is, with 100% practical FX to boot) – it’s the subtle things which make it absolutely brilliant. As Mary begins to flourish in her new career, the visuals and music adjust as well. Songs which played roughly at the onset become masterpieces by film’s end, Mary’s clothes and living arrangements adjust as well. Yet there’s still a dark tone to it all, something you know isn’t quite finished. When it finally does come to a head? It’s cathartic in every imaginable way. If this is only the Soska Sister’s sophomore effort – I for one can’t wait to see what they do when they’re ready to graduate!!!
Meg: I had no idea what to expect when walking into this movie. All I knew was it was suggested by one of my best friends who consistently insisted I check it out because in his words, “It was the weirdest, amazing movie he’s seen in a while,” and? He was right. American Mary caught me off guard – its description on Netflix and cover art were anything but revealing to the film’s true story line and more shockingly, I never knew what was going to happen. It’s almost too often in modern horror films that you can watch a movie and almost with unprecedented accuracy predict what is going to happen next, or at the very least how the film would end. And I couldn’t on either accounts. Katharine Isabelle was simply perfect for the role of Mary Mason. Somehow she managed to exude both blatant sex appeal, cold-heartedness, and innocence. It’s not easy for an actress to juggle several emotions or attitudes at once, but somehow she managed to pull it off. Bravo Ms. Katharine. But even better? Are the characters who surrounded Mary as her sad and unfortunate story unfolded. *SPOILERS AHEAD* There’s a woman who pined to become Betty Boop and earned her dream through stripping and other means, one who wanted so badly to become a doll she had her vagina sewn shut . . . and then there was Lance. Lance, who I’d even jokingly argue was my favorite character of the film, because somehow among a circus of freaks and broken people, he keeps his shit together.
To me, American Mary is by no means a horror film. Body modification to me – isn’t horror. The rape, and resulting torture? Horrific for sure, but not enough to define this movie as a true terrifying film. Instead, it’s an art house feature exposing not only the seedy underbelly of the body mod scene, but a small insight into the mind of a woman who ultimately makes the best of a terrible situation. Even if it ends at her own ending. Although slow and somewhat jumpy at parts, I’d recommend this to most people. It’s definitely something most people haven’t experienced before in this genre.
American Mary is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital Download from most retailers.