Film Comment Back Issues 728x90 Film Society of Lincoln Center

Short Takes: American Mary

By Laura Kern

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(Jen & Sylvia Soska, Canada, 2012)

American Mary Soska

With more sequels, remakes, and cheap imitations than any other genre, horror is arguably all washed up, at least when it comes to innovation. So it feels particularly good to report that American Mary is a truly singular specimen. Jen and Sylvia Soska’s follow-up to their endearingly lo-fi Dead Hooker in a Trunk (09) is smart, gory but never gratuitous, and gloriously female-friendly. (The 30-year-old Canadian “Twisted Twins,” who do everything including write, act, direct, produce, set decorate, and perform stunts, have received the Eli Roth stamp of approval—but Roth only wishes he could make something half so distinctive!)

Sexy and delightfully deadpan, Katharine Isabelle absolutely kills it as loner med student Mary, so passionate about perfecting her surgical skills that she spends her evenings suturing turkey flesh. A shortage of cash brings her into the company of some seriously shady yet curiously endearing types, and she enters a netherworld of violence and body modification (the Soskas appear as sisters who want to trade left arms). These illicit procedures enable her to develop skills that far exceed anything traditional education can offer—even if her teachers happen to be full-on sadists. And, in fact, Mary herself may not be far behind them...

If you regard the abduction and torture of a loved one’s rapist to be a dreamily romantic gesture, then this is the film for you. But even if you don't, you should give it a shot all the same.

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