American Mary has been on my radar for quite some time, not sure what took me so long to see it, on paper it screamed my name. I did my best to ignore the hype around the film, as I prefer just to go in and enjoy the film with a fresh mind. As I went in, I didn’t know too much about it and it was a nice surprise actually. The world of American Mary seems influenced by the likes of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, not a bad thing mind you. I like the strange and I like themes and ideas that really push the boundaries of society and the norm. I feel like the twin writer directors Jen and Sylvia Soska did a rather good job of that. The pair have a talent to look beyond the surface, and they have delivered an intriguing film.
The film is about a young medical student Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle), who while is talented cannot afford to pay her way through school. She feels pressure, and decides to head over to a strip joint and get a job, Being a little clueless she brings her actual resume and because of this her medical background is found out and she’s put to work for a fair amount of money. Mary then begins to perform underground surgery, body modification to be more specific to earn those bigger bucks she needs. Things change for Mary when she is viciously attacked, and her lust for blood grows.
It is an interesting concept, and the film handles it well. This is not a gore filled film, instead the Soska’s go for the realistic approach to the surgery and it is not done for the sake of grossing out. The effects are fantastic, it shows that this was all practical, and it certainly gives the film a level of credibility because it looks all too real. Visually as a whole the film is great, its nicely shot, and the colour palette is really striking. There are some really nicely set up scenes, it is a feast for the eyes and I really liked that. The films biggest strength lies with its star Katherine Isabelle, who is absolutely fantastic as Mary. I have been a fan of hers since Ginger Snaps, well over 10 years ago. She has grown so much as an actress and this is her tour de force. Isabelle really becomes the character, she handles everything she is given and really puts forth the changes in the character as these situations happen.
I really like the Soskas as directors, however I think the films flaws lies in the script and editing. Personally I am not entirely sure their writing is on the same level as their directing, the dialogue is sometimes very off, but when it is on its really good. Events happen in the film without explanation, or things happen to quick and it really is odd and it sort of lost me. The structure of the film is strong for the first and second act but it does fail during the third. It almost felt as though the Soskas just weren’t entirely sure of how to end the film.
Overall I enjoyed American Mary, I loved the ideas presented and while they were explored it could have gone deeper. The Soskas are talented twins, and I do look forward to what they come up with next. Their style is perfectly suited to what I love, and I’d liked to see them tackle a script that they haven’t written. Horror has the opportunity to go into new territory, American Mary is a good step in that direction and it makes me excited for the genre.