Rating: R
Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, Twan Holliday
Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
XLerator Films
Release Date:
June 7, 2013 (theatrical), June 18, 2013 (home video)

AMERICAN MARY is reminiscent of some of the earlier work of David Cronenberg, though it is much calmer about sexuality and self-expression than the relatively few other films that explore this subject matter. Directors/writers (and twin sisters) Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska take us into the underworld of extreme body modification via med student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle).

At the outset, Mary has no interest in, nor knowledge of, the body modification universe. Facing mounting bills while in med school and not wanting to ask her beloved Nana for cash, Mary decides to apply at a local strip club. Mary’s resume includes her medical studies, however, and before she can even complete her interview with club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo), there’s an emergency that requires a surgeon who can do illegal deeds and keep her mouth shut. For five thousand dollars, Mary is ready to do anything. She is badly shaken by the incident, however.

What Mary isn’t ready for is club stripper Beatress (Tristan Risk) showing up on her doorstep. Beatress has already had so much plastic surgery that her face looks like a mask, but she’s got a friend who has more extensive alterations in mind. Mary doesn’t flinch and soon finds herself the recipient of a number of unorthodox, lucrative surgeon requests from the extreme body modification community. At the same time, there’s an incident that makes Mary think of punitive uses for her skills.

Because we are almost entirely with Mary, who is not herself a member of the body modification movement, the psychology of this is explained to us. Mary is marvelously nonjudgmental, and Isabelle is beautifully subtle in registering the character’s reaction to some of the more surprising requests

Writers/directors Soska & Soska, who appear as a set of socially powerful twins with some pretty intense personal changes in mind, bring a sense of fascination and wit to their subject matter. They manage to create sympathy for Mary and her friends without raising the temperature of the cool tone into anything remotely cozy or affectionate. They also adroitly manipulate the horror situations, so that the people who get the full weight of Mary’s imagination warrant (in movie morality terms, at least) cruel and unusual punishment. Often in horror movies, we admire the inventiveness of what’s happening while feeling sorry for an innocent victim. Here, we can’t help but be on Mary’s side.

When danger does come, it arises from a quarter that reinforces AMERICAN MARY’s themes and individuality. It is a smart, potent film that lingers in the memory.


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Article: DVD Review  – AMERICAN MARY


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