Truth be told, I couldn’t finish this film in one sitting. It’s not often I say this, but this film was too much for me. It was only by a lot of goading from a fellow Film Freak that actually convinced me to finish this. Written and directed by the Twisted Soska Sisters, American Mary stars Katharine Isabelle as the titular Mary, a young woman trying to get through medical school, yet struggling with the costs and workload. In an attempt to make ends meet, she tries to apply for work at a local strip club. When the sketchy owner of the club finds out she has medical experience, he offers her $5000 to fix up someone he presumably tortured. Mary accepts this offer, and in turn, is accepted by the employees of the club. This leads her to be confronted by a stripper who works there asking Mary to perform a body modification surgery on a close friend of hers. With another large reward being offered, what’s a college student to do? Mary takes the money, and does the surgery, leading her to be recognized within the body mod community. After a harrowing incident where Mary is drugged and assaulted at a party with her medical “colleagues”, Mary drops out of med school and goes exclusively into the body mod gig full-bore, becoming something of a dark legend amidst the community.
The Soska Sisters have once again proved they are capable of writing some sharp, snarky dialogue. That’s about it though. Aside from a few solid scenes showing off either real people who’ve undergone body mods or makeup, there isn’t much being offered. I guess I could say some of the gore was convincing, just so there aren’t just two sentences in this category…
The rest, which is seriously disappointing considering the Twins’ other work, especially Ginger Snaps (my 3rd favorite werewolf movie). All the characters are more bland than uncooked ramen, including Mary herself. The film starts out convincingly enough, making her seem like a normal girl going through the psychological and financial trials of medical school, but then loses all sense of itself after Mary’s first illegal “surgery”. After that point, she becomes completely cold and emotionless. I’m not sure whether this is because of the directors or the actress herself, but the transition was extremely random and stilted. The plotting/writing seems really sloppy at a best for the final two thirds of the film, making it seem like the Sisters didn’t have a plan for how they were going to end Mary’s saga until the last few days of shooting…
And the acting… oh, the acting. Aside from Tristan Risk as Beatress, and a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo from the directors, no one seemed to give a damn about adding subtlety their performance, and it shows, and detracts from the finished product. I understand some films do like to go for a schlock angle, but American Mary starts out too subtle and real to make a solid, sudden transition like it did, especially at the party where Mary get’s assaulted. Admittedly, it was at that point I stopped watching the film the first time, because the actors in the scene just screamed rape-y, for lack of a better descriptor. This can easily tear the viewer out of the experience because up to that point, the characters seemed real, while from that scene forward most became cartoonish tropes. Also, if you see this movie or have seen it, you’ll relate when I say, “How the hell didn’t Mary pick up on all those disgusting cues, fake being sick, and jet out of there?!”
I really wanted to give this a higher score, I did. I loved Ginger Snaps, and was hoping the Sisters’ newest project would live up to my hopes. I was wrong. Bad acting and writing weigh down what could have either been a gritty, taut, melodramatic thriller or a guts-to-the-wall schlockfest a la a feminist Sweeney Todd. Unfortunately, the film strikes an awkward middle ground. 3/10 stitched turkeys.