American Mary is a 2012 Canadian body horror film written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska and starring Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, and Tristan Risk. Isabelle plays a destitute medical student who begins taking clients from the extreme body modification community to solve her financial troubles.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jen and Sylvia Soska|
|Written by||Jen and Sylvia Soska|
|Music by||Peter Allen|
|Edited by||Bruce MacKinnon|
|Distributed by||IndustryWorks Pictures|
Desperate for funds, surgical student Mary applies for work at a strip club, where she meets Billy Barker, the club owner. Billy is in need of a medical professional to patch up a man bleeding in his club's basement, the obvious victim of illegal dealings, and offers Mary $5,000 to perform emergency surgery, no questions asked. Mary accepts the money, but spends the next few days terrified the criminal activity she got involved in will follow her home.
Mary is approached by Beatress Johnson, a stripper at the club where Mary applied. Beatress has had extreme plastic surgery to make herself resemble Betty Boop. She offers Mary a large sum of money to perform illegal surgery on a friend of hers, Ruby Realgirl, in a veterinary clinic. Ruby wishes to be transformed into a human doll, and has been unable to find a surgeon willing to complete the last step in her transformation: removing her nipples, all external genitalia, and partially suturing her vulva shut, Mary accepts, and a follow-up post on Ruby's website introduces Mary to the world of extreme body modification.
Mary begins her residency in the surgical specialty, and her teachers and mentors praise her promising skills. Mary is invited by a doctor named Dr. Walsh to what she believes is a networking party with several of the head surgeons at her hospital; however, she finds she was the only young resident invited. The surgeons commit lewd acts on the others in attendance, who are escorts. While at the party, Mary is drugged and raped by her former teacher, Dr. Alan Grant, who films the assault. Mary later drops out of her residency.
With word quickly spreading through dark web channels that "Bloody Mary" is a surgeon of great skill willing to perform any extreme surgery desired, Mary goes into consensual body modification surgery full-time. She hires Billy and his enforcers to kidnap Grant and deliver him to her apartment, where she holds him hostage and uses him as "practice" material for her extreme surgeries, using pictures of him for her portfolio.
Mary is approached by police detective Dolor, who asks about the disappearance of Dr. Grant and the collection of disturbing tapes found in his apartment, explaining that Dr. Walsh gave him a long list of women who might bear a grudge against Dr. Grant, and that Mary was on the list. Billy, who has become attached to Mary, kidnaps and beats Dr. Walsh on her behalf. While torturing Dr. Grant, Mary is discovered and attacked by a security guard, who attempts to free him, but Mary bludgeons him to death. Detective Dolor confronts Mary again, believing that she was a victim of one of the sex parties hosted by the two missing doctors and hoping to help her.
Mary begins to unravel from the police interest and worries that a tape of her rape will be found. Meanwhile, Ruby's husband, vengeful after seeing his newly modified wife, tortures Beatress to near death for Mary’s location before ambushing Mary at her house with a knife. Mary attempts to suture her own wound shut but ultimately bleeds to death in her operating room, to be discovered by the police.
- Katharine Isabelle as Mary Mason, a medical school student and aspiring surgeon. Out of desperation, she performs extreme body modification surgeries to solve her financial issues.
- Antonio Cupo as Billy Barker, the owner of the strip club where Mary applies for a job.
- Tristan Risk as Beatress Johnson, a stripper who has had herself surgically altered to resemble Betty Boop.
- David Lovgren as Dr. Alan Grant, Mary's professor at medical school.
- Paula Lindberg as Ruby Realgirl, a fashion designer who wishes to become a human doll.
- Julia Maxwell as Tessa, Beatress' niece who works as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic.
- John Emmet Tracy as Detective Dolor, a Police Detective who is suspicious of Mary's involvement in Dr. Grant's disappearance.
- Twan Holliday as Lance Delgreggo, one of Billy's enforcers.
- Travis Watters as Mr. Realgirl, Ruby's husband.
The Soskas make an appearance as the demon twins from Berlin; their father, Marius, also appears in a minor role as Dr. Janusz, a professor at the medical school.
The film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. There were no visual effects; all effects are either practical, or Mary's patients are members of the real-life body modification community. The role of Mary was written specifically for Katharine Isabelle. The script was written while the Soskas were trying to sell their film Dead Hooker in a Trunk, and it mirrors some of the experiences that they had in the film industry, such as meeting sleazy people that seem initially reputable.
American Mary premiered at the London FrightFest Film Festival on 27 August 2012. It received a limited theatrical run in the U.S. on 31 May 2013 and became available on video on demand on 16 May 2013.
It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 21 January 2013 by Universal Pictures UK. The release includes a behind-the-scenes documentary with cast and crew as well as a feature titled An American Mary in London, which detailed the world premiere.
The film received generally mixed reviews, with praise for Isabelle’s performance and the film’s use of black comedy, but criticism for the film’s abrupt ending. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 60% of 47 surveyed critics gave positive reviews; the average rating was 5.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "It suffers a bit from some uneven acting and an underwhelming climax, but American Mary utilizes pitch black humor and striking visuals to deliver gory, freaky thrills for body horror enthusiasts". It has score of 46 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 15 reviews. Andy Webster of The New York Times designated it a NYT Critics' Pick and wrote that American Mary "combines gore, quiet dread, feminist conviction and a visual classicism, often using a red palette, with impressive, unbelabored dexterity." Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York rated the film 2/5 and wrote that the film starts out promising but ends up "going for the gross-out". In a mixed review, Dennis Harvey of Variety called the film "outre and entertaining" but "doesn't develop all its narrative and thematic ideas to the fullest." Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "turn[s] slack and unfocused after an enticingly lurid, wickedly tense first half."
- Webster, Andy (30 May 2013). "Warning: Woman Wields a Scalpel". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Piepenburg, Erik (30 May 2013). "Jen and Sylvia Soska's American Mary". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Wixson, Heather (18 June 2013). "Exclusive: Jen and Sylvia Soska on American Mary, The ABCs of Death 2, and More". Dread Central. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Barton, Steve (29 May 2013). "Exclusive American Mary Clip Gets Bloody Revenge". Dread Central. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- "Exclusive American Mary clip introduced by the Soska sisters". Total Film. 21 December 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- "American Mary". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- "American Mary". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Rothkopf, Joshua (28 May 2013). "American Mary: movie review (R)". Time Out New York. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Harvey, Dennis (9 November 2012). "Review: 'American Mary'". Variety. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Goldstein, Gary (30 May 2013). "Movie review: 'American Mary' wields a creepy surgical knife". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 November 2013.