The Twisted Twins only came to my attention earlier this year with the announcement of their second feature film, American Mary. In turn, I sat down to watch their debut feature Dead Hooker in a Trunk and was blown away by, what could be seen by the trained cinematic eye, the genius of Jen and Sylvia Soska. Low budget it was, but it was also big on promise for the sisters.
My own personal battle with seeing this film began! I live in the UK, so my hope turned to films festivals. First up was Film4FrightFest down in London then GrimmFest up north, both too far away!
So when Mayhem Horror Festival in Nottingham (15 miles up the road) spread the word it was showing the film (I actually saw the link on Sylvia’s facebook profile, yes, I’m friends with her on facebook), I rose from my wallowing pit and booked my ticket a month before the screening. Sat in the theatre as the film began, I got the overwhelming feeling of excitement…
Warning, there may be some small spoilers!
The movie opens with our heroine Mary stitching together the flesh of an uncooked turkey. Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a medical student learning to be a surgeon and seemingly only really talks to her Nana over the phone (voiced by Brenda Anderson). Not doing so well in class with the teacher Dr. Grant (David Lovgren) on her back and the constant money worries, Mary decides to find a job to earn some extra cash to get her out of the hole she’s in. So she applies to work in a strip joint.
While being interviewed by the owner, Billy (Antonio Cupo), who’s impressed by Mary’s résumé, they’re interrupted by a bouncer, Lance (Twan Holliday). Billy disappears with Lance only to return very quickly with a proposition for Mary. 5000 dollars no questions asked! She can’t afford to miss this opportunity. Noting her résumé, the thing she has to do for Billy is right up Mary’s street. A cut and bloody male lies on a table ready for her to stitch up.
Word soon gets around about Mary’s skills as a surgeon as she’s contacted by Beatress (Tristan Risk), an employee of the strip club, about a body modification operation. The success of the operation further spreads the word, leading to Mary now using her apartment as an operating theatre and making a shed load of money. Clients include the average body mod enthusiast and the extreme. Enter the Soska twins!
In the meantime, Dr. Walsh (Clay St. Thomas) invites Mary to a party at Dr. Grant’s apartment. This is where things take a turn for the worse. Due to this, Mary soon realises her full potential resulting in Billy and the rest of the strip club employees being scared of her. Although this doesn’t stop Billy from fantasizing about Mary.
Now earning enough money to quit Med school and moving to a bigger apartment, Mary strays down a dark path between surgery and murder.
After going through all the heartache of missing the first two film festivals and finally getting to see it, was it worth my own irritable impatience? HELL YES!
This is a beautifully crafted movie from the Twisted Twins. From Mary’s dingy apartment to the low lit shades of golden brown in the strip club and everything else in between, like Dead Hooker in a Trunk, once again the cinematography is stunning.
Of course we all remember Katharine Isabelle from Ginger Snaps (2000). She gives a pitch perfect performance as the beautiful Mary. Jen and Sylvia really brought the best out of Katharine with this amazing role. I’d go as far to say she’s the best leading actress in the genre for many a year! She takes the character from almost angelic at the start of the film and by the end she’s fiendishly sophisticated.
The supporting cast did a great job too. The more noteworthy performances come from Antonio Cupo and the weird and wonderful Tristan Risk. Twan Holliday is also worth mentioning even though his role as Lance doesn’t say much. There’s a scene he shares with Mary that’s quite sweet.
Of course none of these performances would be possible with the direction of the Soskas. Both the direction and the writing are excellent quality and far surpass their previous feature. Along with the blood and gore comes a few laughs too, all delivered at the right times. As for the story itself, the only thing negative I could say was that it felt a little rushed towards the end, BUT, with the way it ended it didn’t really have that much of an impact. In fact, the very end scene made me feel like my heart had broken, and again this was testament to Katharine‘s performance throughout and the Twins’ direction.
My favourite scene was the event that happens in the restroom of the strip club that involves Mary not so delicately placing her surgical implements on the sink area while a helpless dancer watches through the gap of the door in toilet cubicle. And once again, all these important scenes are accompanied by a fantastic score and soundtrack.
My overall thoughts? While not everyone will appreciate what the Twisted Twins have done here, this is MY favourite film of the year! I said it before and I’ll say it again, Jen and Sylvia Soska and the leaders of the new school in horror, bringing fresh and original film making in a genre full of cheap scares and poor ideas! American Mary surpasses, not only the indie, but what the mainstream film market has too offer too.
AMERICAN MARY IS A BLOODY, BRUTAL AND DISTURBINGLY FUN MASTERPIECE! Thank you Jen and Sylvia.