Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'American Mary' Is Just Another Stroll Down Body Modification Lane

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 30, 2013 at 6:12PM

Some great movies, and a whole lot of terrible ones, seem to begin with one image. In regards to “American Mary,” that image the voluptuous Katherine Isabelle, clad in form-hugging lingerie, clasping a scalpel, blood leaking in her cleavage, an item of titillation that just about covers the singular kink-and-horror appeal of this sideshow oddity, showing up ten minutes into the film. It’s the creation of a tableau more than the promise of a story, the sort of imprint that remains over the course of this film, which never begins to capture the “why” of that image’s core appeal beyond superficial depth.
2
american mary

Some great movies, and a whole lot of terrible ones, seem to begin with one image. With regard to “American Mary,” that image the voluptuous Katherine Isabelle, clad in form-hugging lingerie, clasping a scalpel, blood leaking into her cleavage, an item of titillation that just about covers the singular kink-and-horror appeal of this sideshow oddity, showing up ten minutes into the film. It’s the creation of a tableau more than the promise of a story, the sort of imprint that remains over the course of this film, which never begins to capture the “why” of that image’s core appeal beyond superficial depth.

American Mary

“American Mary” boasts a status as sort of a genuine article, making full use of the appeal of Isabelle, a scream queen veteran of “Ginger Snaps” and “Freddy Vs. Jason.” Here she’s Mary, a buxom, desperate medical student failing to pay her bills on time and at the mercy of her overly grabby professor. Surfing the internet lands her in a gentleman’s club, where the revelation that she’s a med student gets her an invitation to a backroom, where people who don’t pay up mob debts suffer grisly fates. Within a day, word gets out that there’s a med student out there skilled but cash-strapped, and it brings out the local, ahem, color.

The first is Beatrice, a woman who has gotten surgery to become more doll-like, supposedly de-sexualizing her in the eyes of men. Her sing-song voice and mask-like visage immediately paints her as some sort of out-of-the-box slasher villain, but despite her Betty Boop affectations, she’s simply a lonely woman with a very specific problem. Beatrice’s life companion Ruby needs a similar surgery, a radical body modification that no medical professional would ever entertain. Ten thousand dollars later, the surgery is complete, and a thankful Beatrice is now Mary’s accidental best friend.

American Mary

Mary soon learns that Beatrice is the first, with a long line of interested parties seeking all sorts of unsanctioned body manipulation. By day she’s attending medical school, but by night, she’s the town’s most notorious “slasher,” as the surgeons refer to themselves. A party with more legally-inclined doctors reveals that the medical professionals have more screws loose than the average body-mod supporter, one of them cackling as he admits, “I cut people up for a living!“ That night, Mary finds herself a victim of sexual assault, drugged by her peers to the point where she has no memory of the event, while a tape makes its way around the community like the loaded MacGuffin it is.

The rest of the film seems to be building to a collision between that footage and the unraveling of Mary’s highly lucrative side operation, though “American Mary” seems less motivated by story structure than by showcasing an open appreciation for diverse, personality-driven plastic surgery that straddles the line between believable and horrific. More screen time is granted to sequences like Mary’s appointment with two Russian sisters played by the film’s writer-directors, the Soska Twins, who reveal themselves to be first-grade hams as performers. The radical surgery these two request does nothing to advance the plot, but it’s just one of many additions that establishes “American Mary” as a film that would rather fetishize surgery sequences set to rock music than actually address questions of identity. The credits reveal the film is "For Eli Roth," and like Roth, the statuesque Soskia Twins appear desperate to seem viable in front of the camera as well as behind.

It’s the second half that chucks narrative convention out the window by revealing that the incomplete, momentum-less “American Mary” is all about the shock value of normalizing extreme body modification. Dreams slip into reality and fantasy assumes a nightmarish plausibility as Mary’s rationale melts away; one could argue her transformation into an avenging sadist takes the teeth out of the film’s medical industry critique, turning it into just another gothic story of one who abuses absolute power. Ultimately, “American Mary” simply reveals itself as a film with little on its mind, content to scare rubberneckers into contemplating the backstory of the more outlandish body manipulation jobs they’ve seen in public. A documentary would have sufficed. [C-]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates