TADFF 2012 Review: American Mary

A scene from American Mary. Courtesy Anchor Bay Canada.

The seventh annual Toronto After Dark film festival kicked off this past Thursday with a bang as fans were treated to the Canadian premiere of the brand new horror opus from the up and coming directorial duo Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka The Twisted Twins) with the follow up to their debut Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary.

In the world of American Mary we follow medical student Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) as her life as a surgical med student is leaving her increasingly disenchanted and broke as the world she once admired and aspired for is rejecting her in some of the most horrible ways possible. That’s when the allure of easy money and the world of underground surgeries for body modification sends her into a dark and twisted tailspin that ends up leaving more marks on her then even her so-called ‘freakish’ clientele would have imagined was possible.

It was announced at the festival that Anchor Bay Canada has picked up American Mary for distribution and it is not hard to see why.  This film was a dark, yet terribly fascinating character study that took us deep into the hearts and minds of some very damaged people that we simply could not stop watching. Through the use of some stellar photography and lighting the Soska’s crafted a universe that was dripping with obsession, sex, and pain without leaning on an overt use of gore and instead relying on what wasn’t shown on screen to allow the audience to paint their own horrific pictures in their head. As the film progresses it gets more shocking and manages to take a fascinating turn into the seedy world of underground surgeries and the people that Mary begins to associate with slowly become terrified of her.

Undoubtedly recognized the most for her turn as Ginger in the Ginger Snaps films, Isabelle embodies the role of Mary Mason so well that it is actually fairly disturbing. Her painful transformation and the abuse that we see her endure from idyllic medical student to a dark queen of a seedy underworld is equal parts compelling and absolutely terrifying, making for one of the boldest female performances that this critic has seen all year. Isabelle delivers what just might be the best performance of her career in the role.

Make no mistake, American Mary is a disturbing film, but when Anchor Bay Canada brings it to fans, hopefully sooner rather than later, they will be in for a rare, intelligent psychological horror that will leave them shaken and entertained all at the same time.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Not Rated
Cast: Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo
Directed by: Jen and Sylvia Soska

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Dave Voigt

About Dave Voigt

David Voigt was a content manager in the video distribution industry for over 12 years. HIs experience has provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, Dave should be your only stop to find out about the best in film. Contact Dave at drvreviews@live.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter as the Pop Culture Poet.