"If one has never seen recreational body modification in its various forms, I can understand why some folks would be seriously ooked out by AMERICAN MARY, the latest in what seems to be a new wave of body horror films which may have been restarted with HUMAN CENTIPEDE, but has really taken shape with this past year’s VICTIM, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, EXCISION, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY and ANTIVIRAL, to name a few. I don’t mean to be jaded, but while I don’t have any body mods myself (besides tattoos), I have seen my fair share in my time. So on that initial shock level, I wasn’t taken aback as much as I imagine one unfamiliar with the subculture would be.
That said, AMERICAN MARY is one hell of a movie. It’s well acted by GINGER SNAPS’ Katharine Isabelle and newcomer Antonio Cupo. Both actors do well with their characters, exhibiting an attraction, yet an inability to show that toward one another because of the situation they have found themselves in. The story follows Mary (Isabelle), a down and out med student in need of a quick buck answering an ad as a stripper in a gentleman’s club. While there, Mary’s skills as a future surgeon are called upon when she is offered $5,000.00 to illegally operate on an associate of the bar with his eye gouged out. Mary takes the offer and finds herself spiraling down the rabbit hole into dark subcultures and deviant body modification for an immense amount of profit which would shut those student loan callers the hell up.
The way this film is put together is eloquent and delicate, yet occasionally stone cold. Even the opening scene, as Mary practices her operating skills on a dead plucked turkey, the camera zooms in to show this delicate operation with thin instruments making precise cuts. That’s how this film is throughout. AMERICAN MARY is slow to develop and shows a patient hand storytelling-wise, but I wasn’t bored a tick as we see Mary get further and further entrenched in this shadowy world. The directors, Sylvia & Jen Soska, are twins who also appear in the film as…what else…twisted twins with a unique request for Mary’s operating skills. The story keeps things pretty distant, though, only showing us slight peeks as to what’s going on inside Mary’s brainpan with only a few scenes of her reacting to these intense situations like vomiting and taking a shower in her clothes, both clichés but appropriate given the extreme circumstanes."