This review originally ran last fall during out Fantastic Fest coverage. The film is now playing in select theaters and is available on VOD.
A medical student finds tragedy, revenge, rebirth and success in the world of body modification surgery in Jen and Sylvia Soska’s bold and confident sophomore feature film effort American Mary.
The bloody new thriller from the sisters who gave us Dead Hooker in a Trunk made its American premiere at Fantastic Fest last night and proved the duo have a promising future in the genre. The film has its flaws to be sure, however, the good in American Mary far outweighs the bad.
Kathryn Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) makes a terrific return to the genre in a role she can really sink her teeth into as Mary Mason, a young woman trying to make ends meets while she aspires to be a surgeon. Smart, beautiful and diligent, Mary’s career path is bright, however, one evening changes everything when she’s asked to perform an underground operation. This is compounded by a vicious attack she suffers a few nights later which only further shoves her down a macabre, weird rabbit hole.
Isabelle’s richly textured turn as Mary personifies the Soskas’ clever writing, one of the highlights of the film. The dialogue is sharp and the voice they bring to the table is as fresh as the world they create.
With American Mary, the Soskas present a unique canvas of surgical oddities and “freaks” not often seen on the screen, calling to mind some of the characters who would breeze through Nip/Tuck. However, the Soskas give them more purpose and heart than Ryan Murphy’s series did, creating a strong, eclectic gallery of personalities like Beatress (Tristan Risk) – a woman who transformed her visage to resemble Betty Boop and comes pretty damn close to stealing every scene she’s in.
Brian (Drive Angry) Pearson’s photography is gorgeous, shifting from one color palette to the next as we’re carried from Mary’s makeshift surgery room to the grungy environs of the strip club scene. American Mary is an indie effort, but Pearson’s cinematography makes the film look incredibly polished.
The film could use a bit of trimming, however, and there are some scenes that can easily hit the cutting room floor to tighten up the pace. It tends to meander about halfway through, but by then we’re more than invested in the characters they’ve presented. American Mary still tends to stumble as it tries to wrap things up and make sense of the relationship that buds between Mary and Billy (Antonio Cupo), the man in her life who had set the events of her “new life” in motion.
The movie is very good, a mature step up from Dead Hooker in a Trunk. American Mary is shocking, sad, darkly comical and incredibly impressive. The Soskas are now officially a force to be reckoned with.