There’s a lot to be said about a film that’s deeply flawed, but somehow still managed to deliver a good time for the viewer. This kind of generalized statement can mean different things about many types of movies. Some movies, particularly horror films, can be so bad that there’s a certain level of charm to them (Troll 2 to name one example). Some can be a simple rehash of many horror tropes but have a character or a performance that make it stand out and from that, an enjoyable film can be had. AMERICAN MARY is that second type of film. It features a really great character driven by a fantastic performance, and one that is tailor made for a lot of horror fans. Mary is written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, twin filmmakers from Canada who are slowly establishing themselves as a pair to keep an eye on in the independent horror film genre.
Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps) is what most medical students are, broke. Broke and desperate she responds to an internet job placement ad that promises big cash in a strip club, but no sex. Already disillusioned with the medical industry and the professors she once looked up, Mary easily falls into the underground world of illegal body modification surgery. But as we’ve all learned from many other films in the past, when big money comes so easily, it’s not without its consequences.
Admittedly, the film is kind of all over the place. To know the twin directors is to understand why it seems that. It’s energetic, and smart. It’s dark, yet incredibly beautiful, just like the lovely Soska sisters. What turns into a revenge film becomes a slasher film, before the character of Mary inexplicably turns villainous before she comes off as likable once again. The supporting character of Beatress (played by Tristan Risk) is an incredibly complex character backed by a great performance but she never feels fully developed.
In spite of all the criticisms that could be said about American Mary, the greatness of its parts outweigh the film as a whole and the entire film just works. Katharine Isabelle’s Mary is an incredibly powerful character, with as strong a screen presence as some of the other female greats of horror. The look of the film is very well done. There are no happy places in this universe, it’s all creepy, but a lot of it actually beautiful at the same time. The obvious support of the body modification community lends a degree of authenticity to the films level of both gore and beauty. Body modification might not be something most people consider pretty to look at, but there’s something admirable about the level of pride it takes to do something like fork your tongue, or imbed a metal ball bearing on your forehead and still be capable of looking people in the eye and not giving a shit about what they think. These people have figured out a way to happiness that most of us might never achieve.
Sure, there are plenty of problems with American Mary. The tone seems to change at the drop of a hat, some of the characters are a little under developed, and besides Katharine Isabelle and Tristan Risk, the rest of the cast leaves a lot to be desired. What can’t be denied is that Jen and Sylvia Soska aka The Twisted Twins are absolutely passionate about their work and they are directors who truly respect the horror genre, and horror needs more directors like the Soskas.
Until next time, be sure to follow me on Twitter at @jcdeleon1 for updates on all things movies and sometimes sports!