In my new horror movie roundup post, I mentioned watching American Mary. Here’s the review I originally wrote back in September when the weather was still super warm!
Even though I’m still wearing shorts and T-shirts when I head out of the house, I’m ready for the cool fall crispness and the spookiness that ensues! With that in mind, I started combing Netflix Instant’s listings, adding a lot of movies from the past few years that I’ve heard things about.
American Mary, written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, definitely fits in that category. It’s about a young woman named Mary (Katharine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps and Freddy Vs. Jason fame!) who just wants to be a surgeon, but a lack of money leads her into a world where she fixes up people for a local bar owner and does some pretty intense body modifications.
I was all over the map with this one. At first I wasn’t sure if it even counted as a horror movie or was more in line with a medical-based psychological thriller populated with all kinds of crazy, unique and deranged characters. That question soon got thrown out the window. From there, I had problems with the sexual assault of Mary by one of her teachers because it felt like a cheap, overly easy way of getting her to fully embrace the life she’d only brushed up against up to that point. Even that came back around in a way that showed Mary’s progression (or possibly regression) as a character, though so it at least worked with the story being told in a way.
One of the things this movie does particularly well is show people from various facets. American Mary is filled with all kinds of different people, many of them incredibly awful, and yet there are times where you feel bad for even the worst of them. Isabelle does a lot of this as the title character as she goes from struggling med student to full-on murderer. But, even as she goes through her downward spiral, she has moments where you can see her examining her life and how she got to where she’s at.
Some of those smaller moments might make the movie feel a bit slow — which it is at times — but at the end of the day, I feel like American Mary is put together in such a way that you’re not just seeing the lead character’s quick descent into madness or whathaveyou, but instead many of the steps that got her there as well as what they mean to her. This descent is handled realistically in that it covers so many of the emotional bases, even while being set in a dark, dangerous world that feels alien at times.
Be warned though, this is a DARK movie. I mentioned the sexual assault above. That’s an incredibly disturbing scene. So is what it leads to. There’s a lot of body modifications that move past the tongue-splits, devil horns and gauged ears and easily move into body horror. But, it certainly made me go on plenty of ups and downs as I watched, which is not something I can say for a lot of movies. In that regard it was a good viewing experience, but one I’m not likely to repeat.