Tuesday 15 January 2013

American Mary - Review - Girl Power As It Should Be!

Certificate 18, available on Blu-ray and DVD from January 21st 2013
Written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska

( ALERT: Some of this review may not be for the faint-hearted)
Katharine Isabelle is Mary Mason
American Mary, which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Pictures (UK) on 21st January 2013 is the second feature from Canadian twins Jen and Sylvia Soska, and their appropriately named production company, Twisted Twins.

Mary Mason is a conventional medical student. Hard working and committed (we encounter her as she practises suturing a raw turkey at home), she is nonetheless broke. Barely have the titles rolled than she is reluctantly drawn to the sleazy world of massage and table-dancing to raise cash. As with most good horror, some aspect of disbelief has to be suspended for this scary tale to work and so Mary, whilst auditioning as a dancer, is called upon at the club to perform unorthodox and illegal emergency life-saving surgery upon a gang member who has been knifed. Her skills are evident, cash is swiftly earned and within days word spreads within the underground community of body modification devotees, of a surgeon prepared to operate illegally. The Soskas’ story then takes their protagonist on two journeys. One is the odyssey into the freakish world of body modification, the other commencing with her attending a party thrown by her senior teaching doctors where she is callously drugged and raped and from whence her trajectory is an arc of calculated revenge.
Katharine Isabelle, possibly most widely known in this country for Ginger Snaps and Freddy v Jason, is Mary, combines the striking beauty that her character demands, with a plausible but realistically flawed naivete. On screen throughout almost the entire picture, her reluctant bravura on entering the table-dancing bar that swiftly evolves into calculated exploitation as she performs her first procedure and thus taints herself with both illegality and amorality, is convincingly evoked. Whilst at times some of the procedures she is asked to perform are shocking ( the Soskas assure that nearly all their medical research is accurate), her violation at the hands of her med-school teachers is all the more harrowing through a combination of her physical performance and a refreshing avoidance by the twins of any aspect of gratuitous nudity or violence whatsoever.
In the cinematic world of the Twisted Twins, with few exceptions, men are without virtue. They either run seedy strip joints, or teach medicine or, in an amusing cameo performed by the twins’ real life father, are a drunken dis-credited backstreet German surgeon. The sisters’ message is clear. If you possess a dick, you more than likely use it to think with in place of your brain. Even the cop who investigates the growing pattern of disappearing eminent male surgeons, is suggested to have motives towards Mary that are more than professional.

Whereas in years gone by, and to some extent even today,  women have been exploited both by Hollywood and the horror genre, the Soska sisters who are unquestionably talented young filmmakers with balls, are with this picture likely to have their male audiences and film-making competitors checking that theirs are still intact.
Mary’s surgery upon the body-mod community and within the revenge she wreaks upon one of her teachers, is surprisingly tastefully filmed. Whilst extreme gore is often suggested, it is rarely displayed, further evidence of the twins desire to avoid the cheap gratuitous shock. Notwithstanding, some scenes are of course hard on the eye and even with unnecessary horror avoided, the film is not suitable for those of a sensitive disposition. A brief appearance is provided by the twins themselves as identical siblings seeking to trade limbs, in pursuit of a "more complete union". Whilst in a (rare) production flaw, the prosthetics of the limb swap disappoint, as if to compensate, the black leather stitches that are apparently woven into the flesh of the twins’ backs are an outstanding body modification effect and perhaps one of the finest examples of horror make-up seen in recent years. Technically, the film is excellent and reflects a refreshing commitment to production values that are as high as the budget will allow. With nods to, amongst others, the Hannibal Lecter movies and I Spit On Your Grave, the twins have produced a compelling saga.
In a story that is written and directed by the twins, it is the chilling familiarity of aspects of Mary’s world: the doctors, the guys at the strip club, that are almost more terrifying than the horror on screen. American Mary has already garnered critical acclaim at festivals worldwide and makes compelling viewing for anyone interested in the evolution of the modern horror genre.

My interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska can be found here.

American Mary, which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Pictures (UK) on 21st January 2013 and will open at UK cinemars on 11th January 2013 (Frightfest)

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