How popular was American Mary at Fantastic Fest in 2012? There were four screenings to meet the demand of the number of fans that wanted to see the movie. Without a doubt, Jen and Sylvia Soska wrote and directed one of the best movies at Fantastic Fest.
American Mary is about a talented young surgeon named Mary who is struggling to pay for med school. She has trouble finding a job, so one day she shows up at a strip club to try and make some money. For some reason, she brings a resume with her. In the middle of the interview the owner of the strip club has some trouble with someone that his henchmen have brought in and he offers her a lot of money to perform a surgical procedure. She practices at home all the time with uncooked chickens, so she’s able to complete the task. A girl who knows the club owner soon asks her if she wants to make more money to do body modification surgery on a friend. Mary still needs the money, so she takes the job and suddenly finds that her reputation and skill could earn her a nice living doing body modification procedures.
Just when things are going well for her, one of her med school professors invites her to a party. Unfortunately, this party is for other male doctors at the hospital, who drug the invited girls and perform sexual acts on them. Mary is raped by her professor and he tapes her on top of it. She then takes her revenge on him, not by killing him but worse (I don’t want to spoil that part of the movie for you because it’s my favorite part).
Mary is now trying to hide her practice and what happened to her at the party from authorities because if she reveals that she was raped at the party, the police can then assign a motive to her and she becomes a suspect in her professor’s disappearance.
The majority of the movie concentrates on her body modification practice and the way that Mary transforms herself from a broke and naive med student to a hard and talented business woman that everyone fears. Katharine Isabelle plays the part of Mary perfectly. There’s no major storyline in the movie that doesn’t involve her and she carries the film so well. Isabelle is beautiful, but it’s her attitude that makes her so sexy. She’s confident and menacing when she gets revenge on the people she doesn’t like, but she’s not immune to being shocked by the requests she gets as a body modifier, like when the Soska sisters make a cameo in the film as twins that want to amputate their arms and have them re-attached to the other’s body.
It’s not a movie that relies on shock value, though. The secondary characters that Mary works on tell their stories so well so that we understand, on an emotional level, why they want to change their bodies. And I love what she does to the professor. It’s completely twisted and horrifying, but it’s unique because the audience takes pleasure in seeing Mary get her revenge.
And that’s what makes this movie so great. Often in horror movies, it’s the villain doing awful things to people’s bodies in a torturous way. In American Mary, not only do people pay the protagonist to do these things to their bodies, but when she does it for revenge, we’re rooting for her. It’s a great twist on the modern horror movie.
One of the most noticeable things about independent movies compared to Hollywood features is the sound mixing. Not only is it done really well in this movie, but I was also impressed by the songs and classical pieces that they use for callbacks in the film. I told the Soska sisters after the screening that I’d be willing to buy an American Mary soundtrack.
This movie is thoroughly enjoyable and if you like modern torture horror movies, then you’ll love this one because it’s the way the characters are written and the way the story is structured, the shock value of the horror scenes doesn’t lose anything upon multiple viewings. Plus, you’d be surprised at the number of funny moments in the movie. The line that may have gotten the biggest laugh in the movie simply involved Mary enjoying a milkshake. In context, the scene is great and funny.
Right now, American Mary is making the festival tour. It’ll play at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival this weekend, but has no major release date. Hopefully it gets one soon. And if not, buy the movie when it goes on sale. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll be glad you spent the money.