Tuesday, July 9, 2013

American Mary (2013)

Directors: The Soska Sisters
Notable Cast: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, Soska Sisters

While the Soska Sisters found some cult success in their off beat dark comedy "Dead Hooker In A Trunk," I wasn't sold on the concept enough to go out of my way to see the film. It did, however, earn quite a few critical remarks in the positives that it was enough for me to take notice of them and their career. So when their next film, "American Mary" and the focus of this review, started to garner quite a bit of hype and momentum in the underground horror scene, I was inclined to see what it was about. Boy am I glad I did because "American Mary" just might be the best horror film this year. It's a visceral dive into the nightmarish character of a person spiraling down a dark rabbit hole of body modification and underground activities. While more of dark dramatic character study, "American Mary" rarely falters at it and it drives home a deep horrific feeling of the fear of fate and the darkness of humanity.

Mary Mason (Isabelle) has struggled. Despite being a skilled student and one learning quickly to rise as a surgeon, her money troubles have plagued her. In an unusual twist of events, when she applies to be a stripper for some extra cash on the side she is asked to do an underground surgery to save a man's life - which to her disgust she does. This leads her down a path of underground surgical work that leaves her edging on the brink of darkness waiting for her to take one step too far...

This might sting a little...
I gotta say first and foremost that I have no idea why Katharine Isabelle isn't a bigger horror star. Her work on the "Ginger Snaps" films was top notch and her work as the lead in "American Mary" is downright phenomenal. While the balls out story of this film is intriguing and the writing of The Soska Sisters tight with black as night humor and odd character psychology, this film is carried by Isabelle. Her portrayal of the desperate college student who slowly becomes a psychotic and selfish monster of circumstance is riveting and heart breaking. She portrays all the elements with the  realism and extravagance needed to pull off a character both relatable and terrifying at the same time. It's the role of a lifetime and I hope that she earns some massive accolades for her work.

Open wide!
From there, we have to talk about the film as a whole. While "American Mary" wasn't the slasher-esque film I expected it to be, it was so much more. Crafting elements of exploitation, the seething smarts of character driven films like "American Psycho," and a pinch of sexual overtones that giallos love to use in balance with their violence, "American Mary" is truly a real world nightmare scenario as it paints a woman's decent into an 'other-worldly' place we don't often see. In this case, a world of illegal surgical operations that lead to darker paths as she starts to blend her own revenge and murder fantasies with her medical talents. The gore is top notch, the dark humor effective and horrendously funny, and the drama tight with exotic characters. While the film might not be the straight up horror that I was initially expecting, it truly is above and beyond just that genre.

Jeepers creepers...where'd ya get those peepers...
While I try to work my way through most of the highly acclaimed horror films of the year, it's hard to see any film being the surprise that "American Mary" is. It's a beastly film from two directors who's clever combination of genres and styles results in a film more than just a character study or a horror flick - its a down and dirty nightmare ride of epic execution. A film that comes with only the highest recommendations as one of the best of the year.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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