You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

American Mary

The "ick" factor is high in "American Mary," though to the credit of sophomore feature writer-helmers Jen and Sylvia Soska, those squirms are induced as much psychologically as by graphic surgical imagery.

With: Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, Twan Holliday, Nelson Wong, Sylvia Soska, Jen Soska.

The “ick” factor is high in “American Mary,” though to the credit of sophomore feature writer-helmers Jen and Sylvia Soska, those squirms are induced as much psychologically as by graphic surgical imagery. This tale of a violently disillusioned medical student’s wade into the weird world of extreme body modification doesn’t develop all its narrative and thematic ideas to the fullest. But the polished pic is still outre and entertaining enough to please most jaded horror fans. So far it’s been picked up by Anchor Bay for Canadian distribution, and by Universal Intl. for the U.K., Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Aspiring surgeon Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle, well known to genre fans for playing the title role in three “Ginger Snaps” films) is introduced practicing her suturing technique on a plucked turkey carcass — a harbinger of much queasiness to come. Despite her glossy digs, she’s broke, so to support her med-school expenses, she interviews at a local strip club under the leering gaze of manager Billy (Antonio Cupo) and bouncer Lance (Twan Holliday).

Being objectified isn’t her thing, though. She’s about to leave when Billy suddenly offers hard cash if she’ll use her in-training operating skills to fix up the victim of some shady beatdown in the basement. No questions are asked; the job is unpleasant, but fast and lucrative.

Soon after, she’s dismayed to find herself being politely hounded by Beatress (Tristan Risk), a helium-voiced stripper who has had herself grotesquely altered to resemble Betty Boop. Having been impressed by Mary’s prior emergency performance, she offers big money for a cosmetic procedure. Before she knows it, Mary is in business catering to the whims of the “bod mod” community, people who view their bodies as canvases that can be altered well beyond mere tattoos, piercings and implants.

Mary’s commitment to this path is cemented, however, by a horrific experience set in motion by her bullying academic adviser Dr. Grant (David Lovgren). The Soska sisters’ screenplay does an uneven job interweaving a subsequent Grand Guignol feminist-revenge element with that of Mary’s new and presumably illegal cosmetic surgery practice, which she operates with Billy and Lance as her cover/strongarms.

Increasingly surreal demands by her patients, as well as Mary’s arguably eroding mental stability, flirt with “American Psycho”-style hallucinatory social satire. But the pic teases rather than articulates that angle, perhaps in part because Isabelle makes her heroine seem so droll, assertive and unflappable, there’s little sense that she might be losing her grip. Neither does Mary ever seem in much danger externally, as indeed she eventually is.

If these loose threads and underdeveloped aspects leave “American Mary” less than fully satisfying, it’s still a novel ride that confidently mixes horror, humor and offbeat character fillips. (The sibling creators themselves appear as identical twins with particularly baroque surgery desires.) A big step up, production-wise, from the Soskas’ self-financed shoestring debut, “Dead Hooker in a Trunk,” the pic is resourceful and reasonably sick on all design fronts, with some ironic song choices juicing the soundtrack.

American Mary


Production: An Anchor Bay Entertainment release of an Industryworks Pictures presentation of an American Mary Prods. and Evolution Pictures production in association with 430 Prods. and Twisted Twins Prods. (International sales: Industryworks, Vancouver.) Produced by Evan Tylor, John Curtis. Executive producers, Kathryn Griffiths, Tom Raycove, Angela Towle, Riaz Tyab. Co-producers, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Robyn Weiner. Directed, written by Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Brian Pearson; editor, Bruce MacKinnon; music, Peter Allen; production designer, Tony Devenyi; art director, Courtney Stockstad; set decorator, Alyssa King; costume designer, Jayne Mabbott; sound, Scott Aitken; re-recording mixer, Kris Siegers; assistant director, Bradley Jubanvill; casting, Ann Forry. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Nov. 6, 2012. (In Toronto After Dark Film Festival.) Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, Twan Holliday, Nelson Wong, Sylvia Soska, Jen Soska.

More Film

  • Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack

    Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack on Agency Packaging

    The Writers Guild of America, which is threatening to require members to fire their agents, has posted a scathing video attacking how major agencies conduct packaging. Titled “Agency Conflicts of Interest,” the video explains that compensation for writers has declined by 23% between 2014 and 2016 and blames the agencies for taking packaging fees on [...]

  • CAA Owner TPG Buying Payroll Specialist

    CAA Owner TPG Buying Payroll Specialist Entertainment Partners

    TPG Capital, the massive private equity firm that owns Creative Artists Agency, is buying payroll specialist Entertainment Partners for an undisclosed price. Entertainment Partners’ management team, led by president and CEO Mark Goldstein, will continue in their roles. The agreement was announced Tuesday with plans to close the deal during the second quarter. “We’re thrilled [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Threatening to Throw 'Industry Into Chaos'

    UPDATE – The dealmakers appear to be getting nowhere. Negotiators for Hollywood agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved little progress at their seventh session on Tuesday, with a chaotic scenario looming on April 7. “When Guild leadership is ready to move on from their declared threatening phase, we stand ready to work [...]

  • Zoe Lister-Jones The Craft

    'The Craft' Remake Finds Director in Zoe-Lister Jones

    “Life in Pieces” star Zoe Lister-Jones will write and direct Sony Pictures’ remake of “The Craft” for Blumhouse and Red Wagon Entertainment. Doug Wick, the producer of the original “The Craft,” will return in the same capacity along with partner Lucy Fisher through their Red Wagon banner. Jason Blum is also producing and his Blumhouse [...]

  • Carol Burnett

    Carol Burnett's Mother-Daughter Story 'Carrie and Me' in Development as a Movie

    Carol Burnett’s bestseller “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story” is in the works as a movie at Focus Features with Burnett, Tina Fey, Eric Gurian, and Steven Rogers producing. Burnett will produce through her Mabel Cat Productions with Fey and Gurian under their production banner Little Stranger along with Rogers (“I, Tonya”). The sibling [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Plans for Agency Pact Expiration: 'There Will Be Difficult Moments'

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent members contingency plans for the possible expiration of its agency franchise agreement on April 7 — and admitted that it may be a rocky road. Members received the letter Tuesday from the guild’s negotiating committee as the WGA and agents were about the hold their seventh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content