American Mary: Review


This is a film that has all the makings of a cult horror movie, and my god does it pack a punch. Gutsy, gory and gloriously unique, American Mary is a film that has propelled itself into the top ranks of my favourite horror movies. To say that this stylish, innovative and riveting piece is only the Soska sister’s second directorial work is astounding. I was blown away by the storyline and by how beautiful the cinematography was, directed with such style and perfection, but with no fear of dark, gritty shots of blood and gore, everything about this film was incredible.

We are taken on a journey following Mary, a talented med school student, who comes to realise that the world she is entering is not what she thought it was. I do not need to tell you the details of the story, indeed this film will be more of a pleasure to you if you avoid reading details and just see it.

There are some scenes that are amazingly creepy, and the Soska’s show they can ramp up the tension and bizarre factor in both subtle and glaring ways, and both are just as effective. It is disturbing and shocking, but delightful for being so. The surgery scenes are so well shot that it’s impossible to look away, and they did such a good job of making me feel so deeply for Mary that when things begin to happen to and around her, I felt as brutalised as she did. This super-effective characterisation is in part down to fantastic writing, and of course down to the sensational performance that Katharine Isabelle delivers here. She carries much of the film on her own and is simply incredible. A thoroughly solid performance, she brings Mary to life as someone we equaly feel for and fear, which is no easy task. She makes Mary personable yet brilliantly insane, in a haunting, creepy and oh so sexy performance. For me this is the stand out performance of the last few years, indeed Katherine Isabelle brings here one of the most impressive solo performances I’ve ever come across in horror.

The Soska sister’s cameo in American Mary brought about one of the creepiest sections, filled with the bizarre and I loved it.

This is such a unique film, people are labelling it ‘body-horror’, and I can understand that, but for me it transcends the labels any one sub-genre can impose on it. It is sadistic, bloody and psychological, with some bizarre and gloriously disturbed scenes, and also provides moments of tension and sadness. It is an amalgam of a lot of great things in horror, and it works wonderfully.

I cannot recommend this film enough. You have to see it.

I have no doubt in my mind that Jen and Sylvia Soska are going to go on to become legends in our genre. I adore that some of the most creative, impressive work in a long time has come from female directors; we need more of them and I, for one, am damn happy that the Soskas are here. I think they’re going to be here to stay.

4.5 / 5 stars     


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      1. Stuntman James January 30, 2013 at 12:21 am

        How did you get a copy of this movie? Its only out in the UK right?

        • HorrorQueen January 30, 2013 at 2:06 am

          Hi James,
          I am in the UK and I got my blu-ray on the day of release last week, it also had a limited theatrical release over here. As far as I’m aware, a DVD/Blu-ray has not been released in the US yet. Thanks for checking out the article!

      2. Ms.Gorefiend January 30, 2013 at 2:28 am

        I loved this one. It’s going in my collection. Great review!

      3. UltraViolence January 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        I really enjoyed this :) I wish they’d explored the nightclub guy a bit more and their relationship but really was a fun movie.

        @Stuntman James. HorrorQueen is in the UK.

      4. Avinesh V Maharaj February 1, 2013 at 2:12 am

        Watched it last night, it was good!

      5. Florian Riepler March 31, 2013 at 2:50 am

        What was truely fascinating for me is the fact that the Soskas didn’t portray the body mod community as a “freak show”, but with so much understanding and sensitivity, and although their ways to express themselves may look disgusting at first … they’re somehow more connected to their own bodies than we are. The question I’ve been asking myself since watching this movie is: What IS beauty?

      6. Vasquez June 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Saw this at its UK premiere at last years Frightfest. Best film of the festival with The Seasoning House coming up a close second. I have a signed poster of the film with the twins and Katherine Isabelle’s signature and messages. I will always treasure it.

      7. Tiago June 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

        That movie is really good. Very well directed, and beautiful art direction.
        It is really creepy to see how far human beings can go in their own madness and twisted vain, and the movie shows it comes with a price.
        The girl who plays Mary nails it.

      8. kXnPunk June 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

        That’s a movie I waited too long to see the girls here sure know that. 😆
        But yes, a true masterpiece of demented everything.
        Katharine proves once more why she’s my all times favorite canadian actress and the Soska sisters, well they’re amazing.
        Great review which is exactly describing what this piece of cinematic gold this film is. Shots are breath takingly wonderful. Thanks for that cool review. :)

      9. Flay Otters June 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

        Really good job. FR makes a great point about the background subject matter and the community aspect of it. I loved that it did not demonize it at all. I found it calming in a way that the folks involved in the ‘body mod’ community (portrayed in the film) aren’t made fun of or used as some kind of sideshow spectacle. The only sad thing, though, was seeing it with a crowd last year at Fantastic Fest was really cool but unfortunately, most won’t get a chance to and that’s a bummer. At least folks can watch with friends on VOD at home.