Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012
Starring Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, Davis Lovgren and Twan Holliday
Written and Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska
The Soska Sisters, better known to those in genre circles as the “Twisted Twins”, arrived at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival with their 2nd feature film, American Mary. The creators of the provocative Dead Hooker in a Trunk return with a graphic horror thriller based in the world of extreme body modification. Does American Mary live up to the promise most genre fans found in Dead Hooker?
Buried under medical bills and tuition, medical student Mary Mason (Isabelle) finds herself disillusioned with both the poverty of student life and chauvinistic treatment by her teachers and peers. Looking through online personals, she stumbles across a position for a dancer. A chance event at the seedy nightclub where her interview accidentally happens to open the door to a lucrative but dangerous side career: performing extreme body modifications for private clients. At first resistant to the pull coming from the clients clamoring for her business, a visit to her surgeon mentor’s home for a dinner party drastically alters the course of events in her life, and the deeper she falls in the darker the water gets.
American Mary relies heavily on the talents of its lead performer, Katherine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps fame. Her performance is outstanding. Her Mary commands the screen and demands you pay attention. The script itself is smart, edgy and thoroughly researched. Nothing on film appears to ring false as it appears the Soska Sisters clearly have a solid grasp on the source material. That said, it does have some dialogue that sounds weird and not all of the performances work. One of the villains of the piece literally comes off as a foul mouthed cross between Alan Rickman’s Hans and Alexander Gudunov’s Karl from the movie Die Hard. The standout in the supporting roles for me was Twan Holliday as Lance, his performance is fantastic as the comic relief of the piece. From the seedy strip club to Mary’s dingy but way too huge for her to afford apartment, the set, locations and set design for the film is another of this films strongest points. This film looks fantastic. The Soska’s have taken a giant leap forward in skill and technical proficiency with this film. The originality of the script, the griminess of the set pieces and Isabelle’s fiery delivery all show that they are truly a duo on the rise as directors.
The biggest issue I have, and it’s not that big a deal, is the length of the film. Clocking in at almost two hours the film could use a bit of trimming. There are some sequences, one including a detective and the multiple fantasy sequences of club owner Billy that could be trimmed or excised from the film altogether as they end up going nowhere in the end.
An early contender for my favorite film of the fest, American Mary is not going to be accessible for everyone. But Katherine Isabelle’s standout performance should been seen by as many possible. American Mary is a strong recommend.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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