American Mary DVD Review
Written by Sharon Davies
DVD released by Universal Pictures UK
Written and directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska
2013, Region 2 (PAL), 103 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 21st January 2013
Katherine Isabelle as Mary
Antonio Cupo as Billy
Tristan Risk as Beatress
The "Twisted Twins" Sylvia and Jen Soska exploded into the horror scene in 2009 with their low budget edgy movie Dead Hooker in a Trunk and now have sliced their way to premium contender spot with their superb new unique story American Mary.
Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps / Freddy Vs Jason) plays the beautiful Mary Mason, a struggling medical student who, despite her intentions, is being constantly criticised by her unimpressed lecturer Dr. Grant (David Lovgren) and is close to the bread line. With limited choices Mary applies for a job in a strip club run by the oversexed and obsessive Billy (Antonio Cupo) but during her interview she is pulled into a darker direction. She is offered $5000 to sew up a basement torture victim and this decision to cross the medically ethical line provides her not only with a pocket full of cash but a new set of interested parties.
Enter Beatress (played magnificently by Tristan Risk), a member of the body modification community who has made it her life's mission to make herself into a living Betty Boop. She offers Mary a forbidden apple in the shape of Ruby who wishes to remove her sexual organs in order to become the perfect living doll – can Mary cross this line again?
After a shocking sexual attack, this resets Mary's future and she quits medical school to become the premium body-mod surgeon, but not before seeking some serious revenge on the perpetrator. Mary, Mary quite contrary – how will your bloody future go? With Billy fantasizing about you, a detective on your case and an unseen foe can you sustain your career?
I get to see so many horror films that I often find myself in an eye-rolling situation when a tired concept is chewed and spat out time and time again, but with this film I found myself enthralled. The Soskas have created something original, refreshing and, considering the budget and timescales (only a 15 day shoot), utterly incredible. I refuse to place this shoulder to shoulder with other low budget films as this crisply executed piece kicks many larger budgeted films' backsides.
The subject matter is extremely fascinating and I found myself Googling the body-mod community as soon as the film finished (although I could never actually partake – I'm an official wimp). The film is so well done due to the amount of research done and such creativity on the Twisted Twins' part.
I also love the decision not to overdo the rape/revenge part – as much as it is an integral part of the story it is dealt with and then moved on from, so rather than this being about a woman being degraded and then becoming a phoenix who will survive solely for gory revenge, this is a far more realistic reaction and far deeper than its counterparts.
Ultimately the appealing parts to this aren't just the storyline, the characters are fascinating. Katherine Isabelle brings an enthralling but vulnerable quality to Mary and I found myself rooting for her, Tristan Risk almost steals the show as Beatress. This character could have so easily become the cartoon character she resembles but instead she is extremely grounded – often the word of reason in situations and so sweet that I wanted to hug her the whole way through, and finally Antonio convincingly creates a character that fawns over Mary whilst maintaining his underground leader alter ego.
Personally I think the key to a great horror film is often the rollercoaster effect – horror one minute and laughter the next and I found myself amused at much of the interactions between the characters. Also a great ingredient is not to overcook things: The twins have cleverly left out OTT CGI and opted for practical effects which really creates a world we could all live in, also they haven't overdone the gore factor. As we have seen with the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, suggested gore pays off better than poorly done attempts and although there are fantastically red sticky moments, the most has been made of the budget constrains and yet you don't notice it.
Yes of course there can be improvements, some of the plot parts are rushed and I SO wish I could have seen the end transformation of German body-mod twins (played by the Soskas), but I have no doubt that this is simply down to budget / time constraints.
I really love this film; it's original, well thought through and perfectly twisted enough for me, and for any haters out there: watch out, I've met American Mary and her scalpel is sharp and pointed at you!
Video and Audio:
The shots are at times simply beautiful and the use of deep red colours / costumes plus the contrast of dark vs clinical white really allows the shift from doctor to demon, even the opening scenes, when we see the slicing and stitching of a chicken skin, the stark realism is palpable.
The audio is good although occasionally the voices seem over dubbed and this does distract, however again for the budget / time constraints this isn't something to cry about.
One noteworthy element to this film though is the soundtrack, I absolutely love the choices made with both the fusion of classical music and rock punches but also with the occasional edgy melodic addition. Quentin Tarantino is renowned for his perfect musical choices and there are some similar echoes here too.
- Behind-the-scenes – 17 mins
- An American Mary in London (World Premiere at Film4 Frightfest, August 2012) – 12 mins