Miss Jacqueline

What comes to mind in the arts, fashion, style, music, et al…

“American Mary” reviewed by Jacqueline Ryan

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American Mary is grotesque and demented, telling a twisted and far-reaching, yet strangely viable tale that keeps you wanting to delve more deeply into the insanely warped subculture of extreme surgical procedures, spawning what is sure to become a cult classic horror film, written and directed by Jen and Sylvia, The Soska Sisters.

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What would you do if your teachers turned out to be the sickest f#@ks of all and you were down on your luck and money? What if the opportunity that knocks is the seedy underbelly of a twisted reality, and the usual lifestyle is a sickening deluge of plastic surgery and body modification taken to its contorted hilt where money is no object and the bizarre is the norm? In American Mary, it is the teachers who are the monsters, and the medical student who becomes the victim… becomes the master… becomes the monster.

Mary’s disposition moves from blasé, to a melancholic detachment that I found to be, most disturbingly of all… relatable. When I realized that I actually understood why she was using gruesome methods to systematically amputate and deform deserving candidates, that is what frightened me the most. As she exacted her revenge, giving the sadistic predator his comeuppance in an excruciating fashion, I cringed with revulsion and wondered with curious anticipation what nefarious deed she was going to execute next.

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When it came time to perform a complicated arm exchange surgery on a set of erotically perverse twins who seeked her out for their abomination of a dream operation, chillingly played by the twisted Soska Sisters themselves, Mary knew she would need some medical assistance. She asked Billy in her low, gravely voice… (paraphrasing) Mary: “Do you know anybody who’s good?” Billy: “I know someone who is really terrible that owes me a favor.” Enter Marius Soska, the twins’ father, producer and actor, lending yet another creepy element to the film.

Katherine Isabelle who stars as Mary Mason, gave an engaging performance. She has a profoundness to her… A penetrating, far off look in her eyes that makes you feel her cool determination, but keeps you at a mysterious distance. She had a powerful, “don’t f#@k with me” presence onscreen, while still allowing you a glimpse inside her vulnerability. Perfectly cast, she can now be elevated into scream queen royalty… No one could have captured Mary better.

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Tristan Risk was spot on as Beatrice, a weird, over processed Betty Boop character who’s delightfully freakish performance was flawless. I know the real Miss Risk up close, and you would never in a million years know it was her behind those round black cartoon eyes. She was completely absorbed in every way, disappearing into this sympathetic character… Her high pitched voice, and 1920’s Brooklyn accent were astonishing.

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Billy Barker, played to perfection by Antonio Cupo, is the man behind the The Filth, the basement bar where Beatrice dances and the heartbeat of the diabolical surgery. He hints at a Mark Ruffalo’s demented alter ego, believable and dirty yet strangely likable in a perverse way, like most of the characters.

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 I haven’t seen anything as compellingly grotesque since Dead Ringer and as original as Naked Lunch. Shot in a highly artistic and stylized way that elevates the quality of the film and belies its limited budget indie status, it still has an indie horror flick feel, and welcomes you onto a voyeuristic trip into to the fascinating world of body modification and beyond.

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For those practicing body mod in the film, and clients of Mary (who had gained star status as the “go to” body mod doctor) it was unsensationalistic, really – it was what it was – an accepted practice in the film, almost as though the body modification was itself a character.

The special effects were grizzly and spectacular! Everything about the gruesome spectacles were believable, and they took it as far as they wanted it to go. Chunks of bloody vaginal bits falling to the floor, horn implants and split tongues, and corset laced backs were de rigueur for this film. The special f/x makeup was beyond brilliant and the body prosthetics and sculptures were masterpieces worthy of their place in gore history.

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American Mary is a must see for the warped minded, and a horror film that will make the flesh crawl right off your back…

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After the screening, I chatted with two wonderful local actors, Clay St. Thomas and Nelson Wong, who played Dr. Walsh and Dr. Black, and the amazingly supportive and cool parents of Jen and Sylvia Soska, who also happen to be the producers of American Mary and fantastic actors in the film. The rest of the cast was in Los Angeles for their lavish premier at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood!

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Clay St. Thomas and Nelson Wong

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Agnes and Marius Soska

Special thanks to Corrine Lea at The Rio Theatre for a fantastic premier, and her tireless efforts to celebrate and support the Vancouver Arts and Film Community!

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