Working the independent markets isn’t a bad place to be when you’re in the horror genre. But we all know there’s both plenty of good and bad saturating both on the big screen and direct-to-video. For every Evil Dead there’s an Evil Things. And just because your movie plays Cannes or Sundance, doesn’t mean it’s the next greatest achievement in horror. Co-directors/writers/sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska may not be the worst to jump on the horror scene, but their latest film, American Mary, still shows they’ve got some work to do.
Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is our titular anti-hero, working hard at med school, while dealing with her verbally abusive professor, Dr. Grant (David Lovgren), and wondering how she’s going to earn enough money to keep her phone from being turned off. One night she answers an ad to enlist as an escort, where she is introduced to Billy (Antonio Cupo), who runs the strip club and hides out bloody customers in the back. After offering Mary $5,000 to clean up the mess, she’s both disgusted by the situation and intrigued at the money foreseen.
Soon enough, Beatress (Tristan Risk) — who works at Billy’s strip club — comes calling and offers Mary the opportunity to work on Ruby (Paula Lindberg) who wants her nipples removed and her nether regions sewn up so that she can be a literal living doll. After making $10,000 for the procedure, she gets swept up in the underworld of surgical mutilation and even gets to have some revenge on Dr. Grant after he drugs and rapes her. A subplot involves sympathetic Detective Dolor (John Emmet Tracy), investigating Dr. Grant’s disappearance, who believes that she isn’t telling the whole truth and wants to ensure her that she’s the victim.
The Soska sisters have taken their American Mary through several film festivals ranging from Cannes to Fantastic Fest to Screamfest where they even garnered a few awards (Best Actress, Cinematography, Makeup, Director, and Picture). If American Mary is what swooped up all these awards, it makes you wonder what they could have possibly been up against. Granted, the makeup effects are fun, even if not overly gruesome, but the Soskas are in serious need of an editor and the cinematography is about what you’d expect from a low budget horror outing. What’s funny is that the Soskas even play a pair of twin sisters in the film and deliver the worst performance in the entire runtime. Isabelle plays her part of Mary well enough, but she’s nowhere near as much fun here as she was back in her Ginger Snaps days. As it stands, American Mary isn’t funny enough, gory enough, or even disturbing enough.
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