Published on October 21st, 2015 | by Brando Quiring0
American Mary is a recent horror film directed by the infamous Soska Twins, exploring the gory world of underground surgery in unique and funny ways.
What do you get when you combine a down on her luck med student, a crooked strip club owner, nipple piercings, and Betty Boop? You get a little horror film called American Mary.
American Mary is a story about an aspiring surgeon named Mary Mason (who is played to perfection by Katharine Isabelle), who decides to get into stripping as a way to make a little extra money to get through the final years of her internship, but instead ends up performing emergency surgery on one of the strip club owner’s flunkies. What follows is a subtle descent into madness as one of Mary’s teachers thinks she has gone into prostitution and takes advantage of her. Mary seeks revenge in a fashion that will have cold sweat running down your back even as your collar steams as this beautiful, funny person turns into a beautiful, funny mob enforcer and extreme body modification doctor.
Mary herself is likable in a very subtle way; she is not outwardly charming, nor is she laugh out loud funny, but it’s noticeable in the way that she plays off of the other characters in the film, especially the Betty Boop look-a-like stripper, Beatress. Mary shifts very gradually from a girl trying to make it in the world to a girl who is the queen of her own little world, a world that she literally carves out from the people around her.
Body modification in its most extreme form is featured very heavily in American Mary. The writers/directors/producers of the film, the Soska Sisters make a cameo as a pair of German twins who want an extreme procedure done. They have heard of Mary’s stellar work, which is shown in all its goosebump raising glory. This is a tremendous motivating force for the plot of the film, as Mary develops a mild case of surgical addiction that sees her seeking out opportunities to perform more and more extreme procedures, whether the patient wants it or not.
Along that vein, Mary becomes a demon within the underworld as she is called to torture people who step out of line. While her exploits with the mob are never shown on screen, they are hinted at quite a few times by the strip club owner who now serves as her contact to the and is a bit of a gatekeeper for Mary’s renowned services. The club owner (named Billy, and played by Antonio Cupo) becomes increasingly uncomfortable around Mary as it becomes clear that few things matter to her more than the opportunity to practice her art.
Themes of revenge and addiction are addressed throughout the film but it is done much like Mary’s mob work, off screen. We follow Mary very strictly, and as her motivations are warped slowly from a troubled woman to a woman who is trouble we happily follow along and accept what is happening. At least until after the dramatic conclusion, where I realised this character I was following and rooting for was not only a villain, but a sadistic and unrepentant villain who loves what she does and revels in it. And we revel right along with her until the credits begin to roll and we realise exactly who Mary had turned into, who she had been the entire time.
American Mary is like a great sideshow performance: it shoves a nail through its own brain and vomits thumbtacks into your face, while pulling the head off of a chicken. And it has you cheering for more the entire time. It is a near prefect mixture of painstakingly well done gore and terrific performances that keep you totally enthralled the entire run time and leaves you wanting just a little bit more, in spite of the fact that it is vastly disturbing. It keeps you enthralled for all the right reasons.