PrintE-mail Written by J.D. Gillam

Review: American Mary / Cert: 18 / Director: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska / Screenplay: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska / Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk / Release Date: January 21st 2013

If you missed American Mary at FrightFest, you’re in for a treat. The Soska Sisters’ sophomore effort is a real gem for fans of body horror as well as for those who appreciate alternative lifestyles.

The story centres on Mary Mason (Isabelle), a med student who is working hard to finance herself through her studies to become a surgeon. Broke and increasingly disillusioned, she attends an interview which turns bizarre as she is called on to save the life of a man in the basement of a club. She is paid $5,000 for her troubles and she thinks that’s the end of the matter. That is, until she starts receiving phone calls and an uninvited visit from Beatress (Risk), who has modelled her body and face on Betty Boop. She offers Mary another $10,000 to complete some under-the-table cosmetic surgery on a friend of hers.

When Mary is then invited to a surgeon’s party and is date raped, she exacts immediate revenge and leaves her old life behind, taking on clients who want something more extreme than a piercing, tattoo or liposuction and are prepared to pay accordingly. Rapidly, her improving skills gain her a reputation in body modding circles and she becomes known as Bloody Mary. However, Mary finds her past catching up with her as she tries to evade a police investigation. It all comes to a head in a brutal, gory denouement that sits well with the rest of the film.

There are so many strengths on show here. The central performance from Isabelle is fantastic – naïve before the party incident, cold-blooded thereafter, but always with a glint in her eye. Humour doesn’t come any darker than the black comedy that laces the Soska Sisters' script. The grue is used well and in the right places, so you won’t feel weak-stomached during the operating scenes. A near-perfect soundtrack lurches from classical to industrial, with even the incidental songs spot-on. The inclusion of real people from the body mod lifestyle works well too, rather than relying on make-up effects. It’s nasty, dirty and oh so good.

Extras – Behind The Scenes / An American Mary in London (World Premiere at Film4 FrightFest, August 2012)

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