American Mary (2012)

(On Cable TV, June 2014) Three things make American Mary a distinctive film: One good, one disturbing and one bad. It does have, as a considerable asset, a very good performance by Katharine Isabelle as the titular Mary, a medical student who, though debt and happenstance, eventually becomes an underground surgeon specializing in extreme body modifications. (It’s a meaty role that asks for girl-next door likability, model-grade good looks and focused intensity –fortunately, Isabelle can deliver on all three requirements) The disturbing part of the film is how Mary turns to the dark side of medical arts, becoming a torturer/murderer while (mostly) retaining our sympathies. Alas, though, there’s the ending of the film, which doesn’t conclude as much as it’s amputated, half a dozen sub-plots left dangling by a cheap and unsatisfying climax that doesn’t have much to do with the theme or content of the film. The film is ably helmed by the Sloska twins sisters (who also wrote the script), and while their showy extended cameo late in the film feels like one more plot thread that leads nowhere, they do manage to put together three quarter of a pretty good film, backed by a directing style that effectively creates a surgically-creepy atmosphere. I’m not so sure about the film’s feminist credentials when rape-as-a-plot-device sends the protagonist firmly to the dark side of medicine, but Mary is a strong and memorable character and it’s a shame that the film couldn’t wrap up a more effective ending. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like here for fans of off-putting horror: American Mary (A Canadian production, ironically enough) is off-beat, slick, has good cinematography for its budget class and features an intriguing performance from Tristan Risk. It’s a promising effort from the Sloska Sisters: I’ll gladly have a look at whatever they do next.

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