Reviewed by Andy
There’s something of a dearth of body modification and particularly its associated culture in movies, aside from occasional usage for individual characters (like in The Cell) the last non-documentary that springs to mind was Dee Snider’s Strangeland back in 1998! It gets a much more even-handed view in American Mary, the latest feature from the Twisted Twins – also known as Jen and Sylvia Soska – whose debut feature Dead Hooker in a Trunk belied its micro-budget in entertainment value. American Mary has a higher budget behind it (though I suspect still low by Hollywood standards, not that you can tell by looking at it), but can the fun that was present in the sisters’ first film return?
Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) is a medical student in training to be a surgeon, struggling to meet her bills and with a tutor who seems to be particularly harsh on her. Not in a Perry Cox way either, though his Scrubs compatriot Todd may thrive in the very male-centred environment. In order to try and get some extra cash, she decides to audition as an exotic dancer, but circumstances mean the interview goes a very different way than intended and soon she is using her talent on more than stitching up turkeys and in a far more lucrative way!
Katherine Isabelle, who lit up the very first Frightfest in Ginger Snaps, is utterly brilliant here, making Mary believable and relatable through her physical, emotional and ethical challenges. I’ve always wondered why she hasn’t had more leading roles in bigger films, and with her owning the screen here she shows how she really deserves the big time.
This is a starmaking film for the Soska twins too, who wrote and co-produced as well as directed – and even have a fitting cameo! The heart put into the film is evident and it’s impressively accessible considering its darkness, and the ear for soundtrack from Dead Hooker in a Trunk is still present. It looks awesome too, with everything from the lighting to the sets/locations and the costume design being neatly thought. Seeing Jen and Sylvia Soska on stage their cheerful enthusiasm and humour makes them genuinely adorable, and they have fed that into the film expertly. Watch it, love it, and love the Soskas too! *****