Written, directed, and produced by the Soska twins, Jen and Sylvia, American Mary is a shining example of independent horror at its best. It won five awards at Screamfest 2012, including best picture. It’s a beautifully crafted film; boasting a unique story and a stunning cast.
Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a medical student struggling to make ends meet. She finds herself in need of fast cash and finds it through Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo,) Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk,) and the world of underground body modification surgery. There, Mary's life takes a radical shift down a dark path.
But with that, the movie does bring in moments for the audience to question what may or may not happen and does the right thing by answering those questions. Too often a movie will leave the audience with more questions than answers.
American Mary makes use of this, in more ways than one. There are events and small mentions within the earlier parts of the film that are brought in the latter half of the movie. The film also utilizes all but a few characters introduced within the story. Out of the cast of characters, only three with speaking roles are superfluous. This makes a big impact.
The real highlight of the film comes from the ability to take a strange idea and strange, often times crazy, characters and make it and them accessible and empathetic. We have a list of characters, from Beatress and Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg) with extreme body modification to Mary who obviously has some issues. They pull us in so we can understand them and feel what they feel. This is a difficult task, especially with characters that stray from the norm in demeanor and appearance. Wrapped by a horror movie, this film is pure social commentary without throwing it in someone's face.
This overshadowing is a double-edged sword. In one respect, it helps to hide the imperfections. Seeing the wonderful characters and the actor’s ability almost makes one miss that the story as unique and original as it may be seems to be missing something. The movie feels a bit underdeveloped; that more should have happened. There is always the feeling that something off camera is happening and we're left a bit out of the loop. The other edge of that sword is that some good is hidden within the movie as well; the beautiful costumes, simplicity of set design, and the wonderful usage of limited gore.
The Soska twins have provided a worthy piece of horror cinema. They took a low budget and a unique story and worked a little magic to create American Mary. They are worthy of the reputation that has been given and will hopefully continue to make progressively better films.
Follow Max on Twitter!