Touted as the Next Big Thing in horror, the creepy Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia, are the writing-directing team that polluted the ozone with a numbing low-budget cult favorite called Dead Hooker in a Trunk. Their new shlockfest is American Mary, the sole purpose of which is to storm the barriers of public decency to see how much nausea and pain an audience can take. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, this freak show delves into the poisonous subculture of unconventional body-modification addiction to test the limits of your tolerance for gore and push the envelope of perversion to see just how far a filmmaker can go without being taken into custody. In the case of the teeth-crunching, lip-licking Soskas, the answer is: “Further than you might think, outside of an insane asylum.” They are not called “The Twisted Twins” for nothing.
No boring, stumbling zombies or goggle-eyed teenage vampires here. The terror is the unspeakable carnage human beings inflict on each other in the name of money and science. American Mary is a medical thriller that follows the bloody footprints of a beautiful but seriously demented psycho named Mary Mason, a medical student who answers adult classified ads to earn extra money for med school. Her career begins in an underground sex club, sewing up what’s left of the mutilated body of a client who has been tortured unconscious. The pay is good, and who cares if the corpses mount? That’s what dumpsters are for. So in record time, without skills, insurance, an operating room or proper surgical instruments, Mary turns into a female Jack the Ripper, replete with her own website. Think Dr. Mengele with a cell phone. One plastic surgery addict pays her $10,000 to remove her sex organs so she can resemble a perfect Barbie doll instead of a human sex object. Another male customer opts for a new penis, ignoring warnings of the life-altering consequences of masturbation. With no time to sleep, she continues to make her rounds as a hospital intern. “I’m very impressed, Mary,” says one of her instructors. “I can’t wait to see how you perform when you start cutting into people. You’re going to be a great slasher. The adrenaline rush you get from slicing into human beings will help you through your most sleep-deprived days.” The other doctors are shocked, but Mary just smiles. After all, she’s doing it all already in her off-hours, answering ads you never see on Craigslist.
Up to this point, the movie is a campy hoot. But after she is drugged and raped by two of her faculty advisors, Mary drops out of med school and devotes her talents to full-time revenge. Beginning with 14 hours of hard-core tongue splitting, the audience is forced to witness teeth filing, genital modification, involuntary amputation, and a double mastectomy. As the torsos of Mary’s decapitated victims hang from meat hooks in the cellar rooms of the sex club where she proves equally adept at lap-dancing, our heroine reaches the zenith of her achievement—turning a pair of lesbian sisters into Siamese twins. Wielding foot-long hypodermic syringes in one hand and a whirring buzz saw in the other, arms fall away like tree limbs. “Don’t ever devalue what you do, Mary,” says the sex club bouncer. “Just make sure they deserve it, and don’t waste a minute of your time thinking about them after you’re done.”
The same must be said about the movie, although there are already 96 rave reviews of American Mary posted on the Internet (none from reputable critics). One reader comment I read praised the cinematography—a major puzzlement, since most of the movie is so dark it looks it was filmed in a blackout. The acting is uniformly dreadful. The level of incompetence in both writing and direction is a scream. The entire movie was made in Vancouver in 15 days and looks it. Mary is played in blood-splattered butcher aprons worn over black lace panties by Katharine Isabelle, who developed her own fan base after starring in a unique horror flick called Ginger Snaps. The Soska sisters, who appear in cameos as the lesbian lovers Mary conjoins into Siamese twins, look like Goth vampires and speak with incomprehensible accents that sound like Bela Lugosi on Halloween night movie marathons. Whether the whole thing is intended as a sick joke—or a warning about the perverted direction in which the once-honorable tradition of horror movies is now heading—is anybody’s guess. The Soska sisters did do some impressive research. Google the growing body-mod business and you’ll be shocked to discover that the number of freaks seeking missing noses and genital piercings is growing. But does anybody care? With American Mary as an example, their secret is safe with me.
Written by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska
Directed by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska
Starring Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo and Tristan Risk
Running time: 103 mins.
Rating: 0/4 stars