Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Cut Above - American Mary

American Mary

A Cut Above

While horror movies over the years have featured more than their share of witless bimbos and victimised females, horror is still one of the few genres where woman are allowed to be strong and independent.  Films like Lucky McKee’s The Woman and May, Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth or more recently Richard Bates Jr.’s wonderful Excision are all smart, politically aware genre-buckers featuring tough, ballsy, no-nonsense woman who are victimised  by but ultimately rebel against and triumph over patriarchal society. 

But all those films were made by men…

So thank God for the Twisted Twins, Canadian writer/director team Jen & Sylvia Soska, who’ve followed up the sleazy, no-budget, exploitation delight that was their first film Dead Hooker In A Trunk with the bold, beautiful American Mary.

Brilliant young medical student Mary (the fantastic Katharine Isabelle) has the potential to be a gifted surgeon but is having difficulty making ends meet, her financial woes forcing her to audition for a part-time job at the sleazy strip joint run by small-time gangster Billy (Antonio Cupo).  However, when she’s forced to tend to a tortured crook’s injuries, she stumbles upon a far more lucrative sideline thanks to stripper Beatress (Tristan Risk); servicing the needs of the underground body-modification enthusiasts and surgical addicts who frequent the club.  Surgically enhanced Betty Boop-lookalike Beatress introduces Mary to some friends of hers with some rather extreme cosmetic surgery demands that no conventional surgeon will touch, friends like Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg) who’s obsessed with becoming a real-life (anatomically correct) Barbie doll and ‘the Demon Twins of Berlin’ (played by the Soska Sisters themselves), and pretty soon Mary is the go-to-gal for the underworld’s surgical fetishists.  But when one of her professors subjects her to a vicious sex attack, it’s time for ‘Bloody Mary’ to show him just how much she’s learned…

Unsettling, erotic and darkly funny, American Mary is a perverse mix of body horror and psychological thriller that despite its visceral material is refreshingly restrained.  Beautifully shot and edited, the script may lose its way in the last act but it’s a stylish quantum leap in quality from the Twins first film, the glorious but ramshackle Dead Hooker In A Trunk, with a strong female protagonist in the shape of the delightful Katharine Isabelle.  Best remembered for her role as the teen werewolf battling lycanthropy and menstruation in Ginger Snaps, Isabelle is phenomenally good as the titular Mary; a smart, resourceful, melancholic anti-heroine emancipated by her trip to the dark side and she’s ably supported by burlesque performer Tristan Risk as Betty Boop fetishist Beatress, Twan Holliday as burly bodyguard Lance and Cupo as sleazeball hopeless romantic Billy.

Sexy, dark and delicious, American Mary is, thank God, exactly the film you’d hope a couple of bonkers Canadian Goth chicks would make; a smart, sensitive slice of feminist horror that’s as sharp as its heroine’s scalpels.

David Watson

Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
Horror, Thriller
1 hour 43 minutes
UK Cinema Release Date:
Friday 11th January 2013

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