Posted by: GregMo Roberts Source:Killer Reviews
Female directors are, unfortunately, all too rare. For every Sophia Coppola, there are 50 Spielberg’s; for every Kathryn Bigelow, there are 50 more Scorsese’s. Female horror directors are even more scarce. Mary Lambert directed Pet Semetary (1989) and Mary Harron called the shots behind the camera for American Psycho (2000), but Indiana Jones would likely have less difficulty uncovering Noah’s Ark than he would finding a female director committed to the genre.
That may change with the evolution of the Soska sisters. Jen and Slyvia Soska are a twin sister tag team first gathered our attention with Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009). The independent film about four women who find a dead hooker in the trunk of their car became a cult classic while touring on the festival circuit and put the Soska sisters on many ‘To Watch Lists’.
The girls have followed their dead hooker exploitation flick with the wonderfully twisted American Mary which has just been picked up by Anchor Bay while touring the festival circuit.
American Mary follows Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle – 30 Days of Night: Dark Days), a medical student who when near financial ruin, turns to the seedy and lucrative world of underground surgeries. Her involvement is reluctant at first, but Mary gets absorbed by the power and the money that flows like an uncontrolled raging river with demand. Her clients become more and more unusual and bizarre, but their freakish requests are hardly enough to act as a deterrent to the increasingly determined and resilient Mary.
Adding to the complexity of the plot is Mary’s encounter with one of her mentors at the hospital. At a casual after-work party, Mary is drugged and raped by the doctor. But her new found confidence at the hands of a scalpel gives Mary poise and opportunity to seek revenge upon him in ways that cannot be described with justice in this review.
American Mary had its Canadian Premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival this October and the prevailing compliments from attendees after the screening was a unanimous approval for the tour-de-force performance by Katharine Isabelle. The entire film almost rests uncomfortably on Isabelle’s shoulders and her good Zooey Deschanel looks combined with her buoyancy and self-assurance I the lead role propelled American Mary beyond the mediocre.
There are some moments in American Mary that may have audiences shifting in their seats in an attempt to find comfort. But much like Tom Six’s Human Centipede, it is more the idea notion of a procedure rather than the on screen execution that propels the repulsiveness.
And although American Mary reminded us of movies The Human Centipede, Hard Candy and even a tad of Boxing Helena, American Mary stands on its own as a competent and effective horror thriller that is sure to get your attention and then twist it like a wrung out sponge leading to the unexpected concluding chapter.
It has only been a few years since we were first introduced to the Soska sisters. But in a short period of time, they have matured and honed their skills and are near perfection in American Mary. These sisters are a triple threat having wrote, acted and directed their feature. And each of their pursuits have been elegantly displayed as they have moved from our ‘To Watch’ list and on to our ‘Can’t Wait For the Next Project’ list. Well done.