American Mary: Body Mod for Everyone
DIr. Jen & Sylvia Soska (2012)
A broke medical student decides to practice her craft on willing and unwilling participants, finding herself falling deeper and deeper into the world of extreme body modification.
The Soska Sisters are a conundrum to me. They’re much-beloved within the horror community, and have often been touted as the freshest new faces in horror. I just have such a hard time liking what they make. It’s all fantastic ideas, and you can tell that there’s some legitimate knowhow behind the camera. The writing isn’t bad, and the storylines are generally fascinating. But they’re just a little off to me. I can’t explain it, but I will try my best to do so with American Mary.
Ostensibly a rape revenge story, American Mary stars the always-excellent Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) as a med student who is hired by a strip club owner to mutilate one of his enemies. She does it purely for the money, and while she hates herself immediately for doing it, she also can’t get past how easy it was to make life-changing money that enables her to stay in school. However, when she is raped at the worst faculty lounge of all time, she decides to turn the tables on her abuser and turn him into a meat puppet with the help of her new underworld friends. She practices her craft on her rapist in order to better provide surgical services to people looking to undergo extreme body modification, like the folks who split their tongues or decide to have voluntary amputations.
What in the Betty Boop fuck is this?!
What is most well done about this film is the way the Soska Sisters deal with this underground world of body mod. It’s very respectfully and tastefully handled, and you can tell the filmmakers have some love for the community. There’s absolutely no judgment, which is the best way to handle a film that falls so far outside most people’s comfort zones. A decade ago, when the film was made, it was not at all normal to see people who had chosen to undergo body modification. Shock videos of people who chose to partake in these procedures circulated the early internet, and that was the ecosystem in which this film lies. Why would this promising young surgeon choose to take her considerable skills to the streets instead of the hospital? Because fuck those people who would try to control her gifts, that’s why. For all of its faults, American Mary does a great job of boiling down feminism to its very essence, which is a woman’s right to choose whatever the fuck she wants to do, even if it is not in the slightest conventional.
And there’s the rub. The movie is sorta twisty in a way that doesn’t always make sense, and the idea of the faculty party that is set up as a rape factory just seems a little too out there to be believable. The acting isn’t bad (especially from Isabelle), and some of the human dolls on which Mary operates are decidedly creepy. But in the end, the film just isn’t believable. Does this stuff happen in the ways in which the film shows? Perhaps. But is it believable that a young woman could randomly find herself in this scenario? Perhaps not. The violent end is farfetched and relatively random, and doesn’t justify the rest of the great ideas that were manifesting throughout the movie. All that being said… feminism is for women to do whatever the fuck they want, and the Soska Sisters are the best example of that in modern horror. So fuck it, I guess, let your freak flags fly.
When your party absolutely, positively, HAS to have a pinata
Who this movie is for: Fans of alt-feminism, Body modification stans, Strippers with hearts of gold Bottom Line: Solid effort, lacking a little but makes up for it in heart. It’s worth a watch, especially for those who are into the type of rape revenge films where the perp gets even more than they deserve. Would’ve worked better as a short, but it’s not too long to be worth the effort.