Screamfest 2012 Movie Review: AMERICAN MARY

This past Saturday, The LA Screamfest held the Los Angeles premiere of AMERICAN MARY and I was lucky enough to be in attendance.  For months now, we here at Icons Of Fright have been hearing nothing but praise for the film written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska aka The Twisted Twins.  Folks, I’m here to tell you the film definitely lived up to the buzz for me.

I’m not quite sure if my enjoyment of the film was partly due to the fact that many of the scenes and imagery there-in brought me back to some interesting times in my life.  You see, at one point that spanned roughly 10 years, I was a frequent club goer in the Hollywood goth scene.  While I’m not personally a fan of being pierced, poked, or having my body modified for purposes of self expression, I’ve known my fair share of people who have dangled themselves from hooks for what I’m assuming to be an odd sense of enjoyment. And Hell, more power to them! AMERICAN MARY brought me back to those interesting and odd folks who I at one point spent most of my time with.

Before I digress too much into my purple haired days, let me get back to the film in question.  AMERICAN MARY stars Katharine Isabelle as the title character Mary Mason.  The story follows Mason as she moves her way through medical school as an aspiring surgeon. Money issues leads her down a path that finds her soon performing questionable procedures in the underground world of body modification.  There’s a woman whose mission it is to look exactly like Betty Boop who lures her further into this world with a desirable sum of money that ultimately fixes her financial woes.  Then there’s the blonde lady that frighteningly resembles way too many women I’ve seen in Beverly Hills who really just wants to be smooth like a Barbie Doll. Smooth is the only description you’re getting from me, folks!

While still pursuing her schooling, a rather violent and perverse assault flips a switch that soon finds Mary immersing herself into the body mod subculture.  In the process, the assault in question leads us down a dark road as we witness Mason responding to the circumstances she’s handed with some rather twisted and violent actions.

One thing that stood out for me about the film was the respect the Soskas pay to those who actively play a role in the body modification scene.  I may not be one to take part in such things but it’s good to see the perspective paid here towards those who choose this lifestyle.  Also, the film’s look and feel is way more beautiful than I expected.  Sleaze and style seem to be mixed with equal parts here and ultimately kept my attention throughout the whole damn thing.  It’s a rare thing for an audience to cringe, laugh and ogle the talent on screen in the same sitting and I applaud AMERICAN MARY for inciting such mixed reactions all the way through.

Alas, the highlight throughout the film, was Katharine Isabelle’s performance as Mary.  While Jen and Sylvia Soska stated AMERICAN MARY was an analogy for their experience in Film School, I must also state this is a pretty compelling character study.  Brilliant, sexy, diabolical and dangerous, Isabelle takes us down the road Mary walks with a sort of reckless abandon that you rarely see on screen these days.  As Dr. Mason ventures further down the rabbit hole, the film builds as well and we’re left to cringe and laugh our way through a darkly sensual and somewhat bloody ride.

The film exhibits other memorable performances by Tristan Risk who plays Beatress Johnson.  This is The Betty Boop lookalike I referred to earlier.  Once you get past the shock of her appearance, she ends up delivering an endearing childlike innocence with the performance.  Antonio Cupo plays the strip club owner Billy Barker.  The character of Barker was somewhat unpredictable as his role, one would expect, would be simply the sleazy bad guy.  But there are layers here which lead one to root for him and that was a bit surprising to me.   Even the menacing big dude Lance Delgreggo, played by Twan Holliday, left me wanting to more-so give him a hug than to run screaming.

While some moments in the film felt more music video than movie to me, AMERICAN MARY delivered the goods. It’s hard to come by original horror films these days that entertain, let alone ones that are unconventionally sick and sexy with a powerful woman character carrying the story.  My hat is off to The Twisted Twins for a job well done.  I can’t wait to see what’s next.

For further information about AMERICAN MARY, check out The Twisted Twins site!