"“Although ultimately a dark movie, there is a tongue-in-cheek feel to American Mary...”"

After Richard Bates Jr.'s perversely enjoyable Excision hit our screens only last Autumn, it seems that body horrors following young female students getting involved in demented surgery is all the rage at the moment. And following on from Jen and Sylvia Soska's latest feature American Mary, we seem to have a 100% success rate thus far.

Mary (Katharine Isabelle) is a medical student hoping to one day become a surgeon, yet finds herself disenchanted with the course as she struggles to make ends meet financially. To help pay off her debts, she auditions for a job at a seedy strip joint, however, while she is there the club's owner Billy (Antonio Cupo) takes advantage of her medical expertise, as he offers her a large sum of money to conduct a one-off procedure for him. Mary's details are then passed on to the surgery addicted Beatress (Tristan Risk) as the beleaguered student then finds herself caught up in an underground world of freakish body modification – a world she may struggle to get out of.

The Soska twins do a good job in lulling the audience into a false sense of security, as the opening half an hour of this film has a light-hearted, jovial atmosphere to it, before the film takes a dark turn and we see the exact moment when the character of Mary switches, making for a rather troubling second half of the movie. American Mary also steers away from relying on cheap shock value, often an issue within the body horror genre. There is the occasional squeamish moment, but most of the disturbing body alterations are left to our imaginations, where all we have is a patient’s scream to unnerve us.

Although ultimately a dark movie, there is a tongue-in-cheek feel to American Mary, where you can tell the Soska twins are deliberately satirising the horror genre, using its immoderate nature to its advantage. For example, when Mary first conducts surgery, she does so wearing nothing but her underwear, only to then go home and stand in the shower in the very same outfit. It's a bit silly, but done knowingly which lets it off the hook.

The greatest aspect to this feature is the performance of Isabelle, fully capturing both the comic and sinister sides to her demeanour. She still puts up a guard however which makes the character quite difficult to read, but that's important, even if it feels as though we don't know too much about her. I can tell you that she's American, but you knew that already. Sadly such praise can't extend to the supporting cast, most of whom are rather disappointing to say the least, simply acted off the screen by Isabelle. Meanwhile, the award for the worst English accent of the year goes to... John Emmet Tracy. Well played sir.

The only other stand-out feature in American Mary is the wonderful use of music, working well as a symbol of Mary's situation. In the opening stages classical music is implemented, portraying the normality of Mary's life, whilst working brilliantly with the horror themes. It adds a sinister edge to proceedings, as we watch on while these disturbing scenes play out to beautiful, calming music. However as Mary slowly becomes embroiled in the underground world of freakish surgery, the soundtrack gets heavier, and soon it's heavy metal music booming over the top of the picture.

American Mary is a creative piece of filmmaking, and although the script is lacking somewhat and many of the performances are mediocre at best, this remains a well-made feature film. It looks good, is artistically shot and above anything else, it tells a good story, albeit pretty gruesome.


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