A Cut Above: American Mary Reviewed

Their names are Jen and Sylvia Soska and they’re the future of horror filmmaking.

I say this not as a piece of hyperbole that the sisters can put on a Blu-Ray case (though feel free, ladies), but simply because, with their new film, American Mary, they managed to create a fantastic piece of horror cinema that literally left me in disbelief of what I was watching. The film freaked me out. It made me edgy. It made me squirm. It made me turn it off when my wife walked in the room.

But, most importantly, American Mary kept me engrossed. And to think, I almost didn’t watch the film.

Read more after the jump!
AmericanmaryposterI’d heard about the Soska’s and American Mary for months. The film, about a surgeon (Katharine Isabelle) who gets involved in the world of body modification, has a huge buzz around it. But I was going to pass on it. Straight up, any sort of limb cutting, tongue piercing etc. just freaks me right out. It gives me the shivers just thinking about that stuff, which is ironic because the one time I had my ear pierced with a needle, I absolutely loved it. Same with my tattoo. It was an adrenaline rush, a cool kind of “pain” that isn’t really, and that I don’t think one understands unless they experience it themselves. However, seeing anything remotely body mod like on film – count me out. That’s one of the reasons I could never get into the whole torture porn genre.

However, when I was sent a copy for review for the flick, which is screening this Thursday at Cineplex theaters and then hits DVD/Blu-Ray June 18th from Anchor Bay, I thought I would give it a shot. What I expected was a low-budget film with gratuitous violence that I’d likely have to shut off.

I love being wrong.

In the hands of writers/directors Jen and Sylvia Soska, American Mary is an absolutely brilliant, original film that doesn’t overdue its violence or graphic imagery. There’s some seriously cringe-worthy moments, to be sure, but you know what? I just averted my eyes. I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I listened, and believe me, that was more than enough. The sound was just as disturbing as I’m sure the visuals were. Right there, the Soska’s nailed a great element in horror films – the sounds that surround us.

As for low-budget? Not this film; at least, it sure as hell doesn’t look low-budget. I was so impressed with the production values on American Mary – from the apartment where bad stuff goes down, to the make-up on characters like Tristan Risk’s Beatrice, a stripper who has modified her face to look like Betty Boop. Man, I couldn’t decide if I was enticed or repulsed when I was looking at her. That uncertainty that I felt, I have a feeling that that’s a reaction the Soska’s would be happy to read.

Here’s the thing – a great story and great directing needs great acting. Luckily, American Mary has that, mainly because of the performance from Katharine Isabelle in the lead. Best known for her role in the Ginger Snaps trilogy, Isabelle is flat-out freaking fantastic in this film. She plays dark so well, but she’s also funny and eager and weary when needed. She simply owns this role, and I don’t think any other known actress could have accomplished what she does (other than perhaps Rooney Mara, who has the innate ability to convey the same sort of darkness).

At the end of the day, American Mary isn’t going to be for everyone. I didn’t think it would be for me. But with so much genuine talent involved in the film, it succeeded in spite of my own trepidation and left me so excited to see what the Twisted Twins come up with next.

Original, thoughtful, powerful, horrific – anyway you slice it, that’s American Mary.

One Reply to “A Cut Above: American Mary Reviewed”

  1. Sounds like the stuff they’re doing on Orphan Black with all the body modifications. I have to get up enough nerve to watch this.

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