Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) is a medical student on her way to becoming a surgeon. The path to living the American dream is strewn with obstacles though. Her financial woes are not only distracting her from her studies, bringing conflict with her tutor Dr Grant (David Lovgren), they also mean the bills are piling up.
Taking on a job as a dancer through sheer desperation she meets club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo). Following a chance to make some quick money using her skills patching someone up in the basement of the club and a brutal and disturbing encounter at a party Mary soon finds opportunities for both work and revenge in the body modification community.
Soon Mary is soon altering her aspirations whilst altering her clientele.
Fresh off the back of a sold out screening tour of the UK and a screening at Film4 FrightFest. The latest from from Jen and Sylvia Soskia aka the Twisted Twins is a memorable deconstruction of the American dream, an engrossing character study, a twisted tale of revenge and introduces one of the most iconic characters in horror in years.
Katherine Isabelle already known to fans of cult horror for her role as Ginger in the memorable Ginger Snaps films eclipses her previous character here and is sure to be remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ from now on.
With an endearing and powerful performance Isabelle’s Mary starts off a naive student desperate to please, whether it’s her Nana who is constantly calling Mary for updates on her progress (unaware of the bleak reality of her financial hardship) or her tutor the arrogant Dr Grant (an antagonistic and callous turn from Lovgren) and becomes something entirely different by the time the credits roll.
Often when a film has vengeance on perpetrators of a brutal sexual assault in it’s DNA its makers tend to be more interested in portraying the sexual assault, the more explicit the better, than the vengeance ,which is generally an afterthought justifying the former. Here things are handled differently and this subtlety makes what unfolds all the more harrowing. It’s disturbing imagery and feeds into what happens as the story unfolds. With Mary returning galvanised and wreaking vengeance on her tormentor and finding acceptance from those that others would look down upon.
The Soskia twins themselves feature as clients of Mary’s, playing the goth styled hosts of a well regarded body mod website wanting more work done.
With her sheer black hair, bright red lipstick and ice-cool demeanour along with her fetish inspired wardrobe it’s not hard to fall for Mary and Cupo’s Billy quickly becomes enamoured, he doesn’t act on it through fear though.
There’s more going on besides body horror though with some black humour to be found, one scene has a client in Mary’s appartment/bodyshop being thrown out for asking for tribal tattoos. There’s a murky ambiguity to Mary’s story too, one which hulking doorman and muscle Lance (Twan Holliday) makes even murkier by relating a tale of how a relation was callously murdered.
One of the most endearing things the Soska twins achieve is crafting a film which features a subculture which is completely misunderstood in mainstream media at its heart, crucially though it doesn’t mock, judge or demonise its members.
One of the most intriguing characters in the film is Beatrice (Tristan Risk) a stripper who has undergone numerous procedures to resemble cartoon character Betty Boop, with some masterful prosthetics from MASTERSFX . Despite standing out as being “a freak” in the eyes of most Beatrice is an eternal optimist and quickly becomes friends with Mary and has her own story.
Shot on a low budget but still looking slick and polished there’s shades of Takashi Miike’s Audition, Mitchell Lichenstein’s Teeth, Mary Harron’s American Psycho and David Cronenberg’s body horror all shot through with the Soskia twins aesthetic vision.
Whilst it’s ending seems a little clunky American Mary is one of the most original and engaging horror films in years and deserves the cult admiration it will undoubtedly get.