Katharine Isabelle ("Ginger Snaps") gives her all as "American Mary," a med student whose financial problems push her into performing illegal and unethical body-altering surgeries for exotic dancers obsessed with achieving a particular look. Mary does these procedures (although they make her ill) at the request of her aberrant clientele -- but, after being brutalized, her need for vengeance turns her skills to darker purposes. Although not a "made-you-jump" horror movie, the film's repulsive body horror keeps eyes glued to screen and indisputably establishes Canadian directors Jen and Sylvia Soska as the Twisted Twins (a name they gave themselves with their company Twisted Twins Productions).
Not unlike a gruesome car crash, "American Mary" causes a stronger compulsion to watch than to look away. While Isabelle deftly creates a complex character, her friend Beatress (Tristan Risk) is but a mere caricature - literally, since she's had herself altered (14 surgeries) to resemble Betty Boop, the curvaceous cartoon character. The strangeness of the idea that someone would do such a thing, believable because such bizarre people actually DO exist in the real world, represents the overall strangeness of the film.
The Soskas' film eerily hearkens back to "Dead Ringers," from director David Cronenberg, also Canadian (as is "Mary" star Isabelle). Twins, body horror and surgery come into play in both films. One of a pair of twin gynecologists becomes unhinged in "Dead Ringers" and commissions the creation of hideous gynecological instruments. "Mary" turns the tables, with female as surgeon. The Soskas themselves appear as twins (with grotesque leather stitchings in their backs) who commission Mary's expertise in an unnerving scene laden with incestuous innuendo.
The Soskas gained attention as female filmmakers in a male-dominated genre with their 2009 debut feature "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" in 2009, an exploitation film in which they starred. Even so, "American Mary" didn't get wide release in the U.S., so the June DVD release provided many the first opportunity to glimpse the truly twisted world of "Mary." The very professional-looking final product belies the incredible facts that it was shot in Vancouver in a mere 15 days, with financing from a second-mortgage on directors' parental home. Equally as impressive, all special effects were achieved practically (i.e., without CGI), according to IMDb.
Definitely NOT for the weak of stomach, "Mary" paves the way for other female filmmakers who have no qualms conceptualizing an intensely gory and horrific world.