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American Mary (2012)

by on June 4, 2014
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American Mary interior One of the more recent releases to make its way into the vault, “American Mary” is a 2012 Canadian product with a great deal of patient storytelling and equal amounts of unmitigated gore.

Mary Mason, played expertly by Katharine Isabelle, is studying to be a surgeon when she is presented with the opportunity to erase her accumulating debt in exchange for her plastic surgery expertise. Reluctant at first, Mary eventually delves deep into the underground world of body modification by performing specialized surgeries for a fringe group of self-obsessed individuals. One such individual is Beatress Johnson, who has altered her appearance to look more like Betty Boop, an intermediary of sorts through whom Mary is introduced to potential clients.

After being drugged and raped by one of her professors (a notable turning point in the movie), Mary soon turns her surgically skilled hands against her rapist and begins performing surgeries for the thrill rather than the money. Her demeanor becomes noticeably more vapid and callous as the police nip closely at her heels following the disappearance of her professor. The ending unravels as quickly as Mary’s journey begins, ultimately leaving her no better off than she was before her descent into madness.

The movie is methodically paced with an incredible attention to detail and patience. There’s no murder by numbers to be had here; “American Mary” truly is an original plot unlike any other. Although seemingly similar to so many other female revenge movies, “American Mary” is not afraid to show some teeth. At no point is Mary portrayed as a vulnerably naive female pawn. Even in context to the rape scene, Mary is never portrayed as being weak or inferior in any regard. Her swift and brutal revenge following the rape serves more as an inevitable course of events rather than a reactionary response.

Another aspect that sets “American Mary” apart from the likes of “I Spit on Your Grave” is the female influence, specifically from the director’s perspective. Helmed by the filmmaking duo known as the Soska Sisters, there’s a noticeable female touch deeply seeded throughout. The script itself was actually written specifically with actress Katharine Isabelle in mind as the lead. The plot blossoms from there, rarely deviating from its strong female-centric plot.

It’s also worth mentioning that the special effects are uniquely practical. That is to say, there are no makeup tricks and prosthetics to be had here; everything on screen has a real-life application right down to the real-life members of the body-mod community who double as Mary’s patients. There’s enough of a cheese factor oozing from the various male characters that there is seemingly no need to pile on bad special effects.

“American Mary” is a cerebral and slow-paced thriller that’s definitely not for everybody. The female characters steal the show in their various incarnations, while the men seem to piddle around content with their destitute and shallow manliness. The story is thrilling enough to grab your attention throughout, but there’s no over-the-top ridiculousness to be had here — just a straightforward, somber horror romp with just the right amount of uncategorized Schlockiness.

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