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Broke med student Mary Mason grows disenchanted with medical school and the doctors she once idolized. The allure of easy money sends a desperate Mary to the underground world of body modification surgery, but she soon finds her choices leave more marks on herself then her clientele.
For more about American Mary and the American Mary Blu-ray release, see American Mary Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on June 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Jen Soska
Directors: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
» See full cast & crew
American Mary Blu-ray Review
She Sutures to Conquer
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, June 16, 2013
The Soska Sisters, Jen and Sylvia, have aptly named their film company "Twisted Twins Productions". As writers, producers and directors, they might normally be dubbed a triple threat, except that everything about them seems to revolve around duality, including the supporting roles they wrote for themselves in American Mary as—what else?—a pair of kinky twins. American Mary is the Soskas' second feature after the no-budget Dead Hooker in a Trunk, whose guerilla aesthetic was inspired by Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi. The sisters' follow-up has a more polished and professional look, but the Soskas have lost none of their glee in exploring splatter cinema on their own distinctly female terms. They delight in subverting some of the genre's most familiar tropes, and the result is one of the most original horror films in years.
Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a med student who is just about to begin her surgical residency in Seattle. Her only living relative is a Hungarian grandmother, whom she dutifully calls on a regular basis. Otherwise she lives alone, has no friends and works constantly to satisfy her demanding professor of surgical technique, Dr. Grant (David Lovgren). Grant is tough and challenges Mary to the point of bullying, because he sees great things in her (or so he says). To an outsider's eye, his conduct might border on sexual harassment, but Mary doesn't spot it, because she idolizes the medical fraternity to which she so badly wants to belong. Mary's work would improve if she weren't in such dire financial straits that she spends much of her energy fending off creditors. Desperate to make money in her evening hours, she applies for a "no sex required" job at a strip club called Bourbon a Go Go. To the amusement of the owner, Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo), Mary presents a résumé at her interview, which is not something he usually sees. As luck would have it, though, an unexpected development in the back room of Billy's business requires immediate "off the books" medical attention—and Billy just happens to have someone with medical training sitting in the club. When Mary returns home, her money problems are solved. Several days later, though, one of Billy's dancers named Beatress (Tristan Risk) comes calling. With an immobile face surgically altered to resemble Betty Boop and a helium voice borrowed from Ellen Green's Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Beatress belongs to the underground world of "body modification", in which people pay significant sums to have themselves reshaped to conform to some inner ideal. It's plastic surgery used to make fantasies come true. Beatress offers Mary $10,000 to perform various procedures on her close friend, Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg). It's too much money to turn down. As word of Mary's work spreads through the body modification community, demand for her services increases. She receives the ultimate imprimatur when two German twins (played by the Soskas) who run the largest body modification website in the world choose Mary to perform a critical operation that will bring them even closer together. (See the film if you want the yucky details.) Mary earns enough cash from this one operation to move into an upscale loft equipped with a fancy surgical facility. Mary's success does not come without cost. Her teacher, Dr. Grant, and the jovial surgeon in charge of her residency, Dr. Walsh (Clay St. Thomas), note the upgrade in her attire and the change in her demeanor, and they make stereotypical assumptions about how an attractive single woman must be making money that aren't entirely wrong, given Mary's initial application at Bourbon a Go Go. By the time Mary operates on the twins, she is no longer enrolled in med school. She's also been viciously attacked by a group of medical colleagues, but she's found her own way to get even. Between the services of Billy and his muscle, Lance (Twan Holliday), and her own surgical skills, Mary has become a truly dangerous person to antagonize. The authorities are not absent, just clueless. An earnest police detective (John Emmet Tracy) appears from time to time, inquiring after people who have gone missing, but Mary handles him easily. The real danger arises out of her surgical work. In all classic horror films, everyone eventually pays for their transgressions. The Soskas don't skimp on sex and violence, but their approach has an unmistakably feminine sensibility. A male director would showcase an actress' bare breasts for the male viewers who fetishize them. The Soskas' most explicit and prolonged display of a shapely female chest occurs in connection with an elective procedure to remove the nipples. (And yes, they show enough of the operation to make you squirm.) In a rape scene, they focus on the victim's face, because (as they explain in their commentary) everyone knows what is happening elsewhere, and they're more interested in the victim's emotions. Likewise, when the victim takes revenge on her attacker with the assistance of Mary's surgical skills, the focus remains on the rapist's face, because . . . well, you'll see (if you don't turn away). Katharine Isabelle's performance as Mary is a triumph of restraint. By holding back, Isabelle keeps Mary a mystery to those around her, to the audience and ultimately to herself. As much as she tries to do the "right" thing (which is what makes her vulnerable to someone like Dr. Grant at school), Mary hides deep reserves of anger and darkness that are suddenly set free when she tastes the power that comes with practicing her own form of "medicine", achieving a strange kind of celebrity and earning her own money. The thrill of that empowerment is what makes her unresponsive to Billy's growing interest in her. It's also what makes her blind to the growing danger she's in.
American Mary Blu-ray, Video Quality
American Mary was shot with Red Epic cameras by Brian Pearson, a frequent second unit DP, who also served as cinematographer for Final Destination 5 and The Butterfly Effect 2. Pearson used darkness and shadows effectively to create atmosphere and extract the maximum visual value from the Soskas' tight production budget. Most of the film takes place indoors, and Pearson's spaces are always dim and mysterious. The image on XLrator's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray is clear, detailed and sharp, as is generally the case with projects originated on Red. Blacks are deep, with well-delineated shadows and detail, so that items that are supposed to be visible in shadow can be seen, if only dimly. Details of faces, costumes and props (including bizarre surgical implements) are readily discernible whenever they are in focus. The generally cool hues of Mary's environs (notably, med school and her residences) contrast with the warmer tones of Billy's club and a few outdoor locations, but overall American Mary is a chilly-looking movie. Even the redness of blood has been somewhat dulled, probably in post-production. Some light banding occurs here and there, but most viewers will never notice. Otherwise, no artifacts were in evidence. Red footage generally compresses well, and except for a few scenes, American Mary doesn't have a lot of rapid activity. The average bitrate of 19.94 Mbps appears to be sufficient.
American Mary Blu-ray, Audio Quality
American Mary's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is atmospheric more than immersive. It has a general sense of ambiance for various environments, but the film is generally set in locales and features actions that offer little in the way of opportunity for elaborate surround activity. Even the Bourbon a Go Go club and a raucous party that Mary attends do little except place music at appropriate volume into the surround array. The dialogue is clear, and the sound effects are appropriately unsettling. The score by prolifie Canadian composer Peter Allen contributes to the creepy atmosphere, but more notable are the multiple versions of "Ave Maria" heard at key points throughout the film. Their reproduction is flawless; their effect is increasingly disturbing.
American Mary Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
American Mary Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One can quibble with American Mary on numerous points, and it's easy to imagine studio executives "noting" the film to death. Mary's backstory remains opaque; the character of Billy hovers somewhere between thug and white knight; and it's hard to believe that the underground culture of "body modification" manages to flourish without a frightening number of casualties from post-surgical complications. But all this is beside the point. Effective horror movies aren't about realism, but about establishing an alternate dreamworld that feels real while it lasts. The Soskas have done that with American Mary in a manner that stands favorable comparison with acknowledged masters such as Clive Barker and David Cronenberg. Highly recommended.
American Mary Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: American Mary - June 14, 2013
Blu-ray.com and XLrator Media are offering three members an opportunity to win a Blu-ray copy of filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska's American Mary, which stars Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Julia Maxwell and Paula Lindberg. The stylish "body-mod" horror-thriller ...
• American Mary Blu-ray - May 22, 2013
XLrator Media has detailed the domestic Blu-ray release of filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska's second feature film, American Mary, starring Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Julia Maxwell and Paula Lindberg. The stylish "body-mod" horror-thriller streets on June ...
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