American Mary: DVD/Blu-ray Featured

Monday, 21 January 2013 00:00 Written by 

American Mary - on DVD and Blu-rayAn original horror film is hard to come by these days, so thank heavens for “American Mary”, a seriously warped piece by the Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia (“Dead Hooker in a Trunk”). Katharine Isabelle (“Ginger Snaps”, the USA Being Human) stars as Mary, a med student who is struggling to pays the bills and stumbles into a lucrative new line of work as a body modification surgeon. Before she knows it, her services in high demand.

The body-mod jobs start small but soon ramp up as increasingly weird requests come Mary’s way, drawing her deeper and deeper into a strange underworld of people who are unhappy with their bodies. Meanwhile, Mary develops a dark thirst for revenge following an incident with one of her medical tutors at a party. Imagine “Human Centipede” crossed with “Frankenstein” and “Hard Candy”. The squeamish need not apply!

“American Mary” is at its strongest in the first hour, as a financially desperate Mary is gradually introduced to a shadowy world she could not imagine, and tries to suppress her revulsion as she encounters some quite freakish characters who resemble Autons from Doctor Who rather than human beings. These are people who typically want to go further than your common or garden cosmetic surgery of a botox jab, a small nip here or a tuck there, and whose requirements demand much more invasive surgery.

Take Beatrice (Tristan Risk), a woman who has had more than a dozen operations to transform her into the cartoon character Betty Boop. Her face has become abnormally smooth, shiny and inert, which, in concert with her squeaky voice makes her quite unusual. As a gamer, I was reminded of the term ‘uncanny valley’; as video gaming hardware grows in processing power, the closer digital characters edge towards reality, but by doing so their inadequacies only become more glaring and unnerving.

The movie establishes a real sense of danger and other-worldliness that, alongside the surgical scenes, gets under your skin. There does come a point, unfortunately, where over-familiarity with Mary’s circle of dodgy acquaintances and her work becomes an issue, and the film loses traction and atmosphere. The rather slight plot plays second fiddle to the concept of the film, and one feels like it gets in the way. There are also a couple of scenes that feel like they are exploiting Isabelle’s nubile body for the sake of it, rather than propelling the story forwards.

I do not want to sound too negative, though, because on balance “American Mary” is a success. The idea feels fresh, the central performance by Isabelle is a tour de force (Caprica fans will be right at home as she is a lot like Zoe played by Alessandra Torresani), and the grungy tone is palpable. It might not scare the living daylights out of its audience, but it will surely prompt them to recoil and also consider the human form.

The two bonus features included alongside the main feature are a scrappy behind the scenes montage (17 mins), and the cunningly-titled ‘An American Mary in London’, which covers the film’s premiere at Film4 FrightFest in August 2012. The latter is 12 entertaining minutes of the whacky Soska sisters delighting fans (not least with their skimpy, themed outfits), with actors Katharine Isabelle and John Emmet Tracy in tow.

“American Mary” (2012) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Universal Pictures UK. The main feature has a running time of 103 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £12.99 on DVD and £15.99 on Blu-ray, or less from


Last modified on Saturday, 26 January 2013 14:28

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