Film Review: American Mary
Sometimes I like to run across a low profile, modestly budgeted horror movie and allow myself to watch it with an open mind.
Occasionally, it pays off.
But not all the time.
I’m happy to report that American Mary is more pay-off than pay-out (because I’m not gonna be spending a lot of time “paying it out?” You get it. It’s wordplay. Don’t scowl at me).
TL;DR It’s a hot chick in lingerie and heels who does body modding, including performing revenge “surgery” on a sleazeball lecturer who raped her. American Mary is only betrayed by some pacing and motivation issues. And a disappointing ending. 3 out of 5 stars.
At least it wasn’t as pointless as Wrong Turn 5‘s.
The plot follows the unsurprisingly named Mary (did you read the title?), a surgical student who needs some fast cash. While falling into a mob doctor esque role, she is also sexually assaulted by her medical teachers. Combine this with a new revenue stream from some body modding enthusiasts, and Mary not only has a way to get some creative revenge, but to earn her new keep. She becomes increasingly indifferent to what she’s doing, culminating in attention from the police, a tense relationship with her strip club owning partner, and Mary’s eventual murder by the unimpressed husband of one of her modding clients.
A man will get that way if you take off his wife’s nipples and sew her vagina shut. Although, did he not even consider anal? Rude.
The real problem with American Mary is similar to the problem I had with Martha Marcy May Marlene: Mary falls into this new life way (way way) too easily. She goes from mild mannered surgical student to totally apathetic torturer/murderer/mutilator almost overnight.
Actually, scratch that, exactly overnight. The very next day after having been raped, she gets all slice n’ dice on her lecturer. My disbelief can only be suspended so far.
Despite Mary’s bizarre coldness, though, the movie is otherwise refreshingly understated. They don’t languish in the gore, but don’t skimp out on it, either. A difficult balance.
Why I hate this movie:
I think Mary’s descent into the seedy underbelly of her new world feels unbelievable due to some confusing editing. The movie is supposed to take place over several months (I think?), but it could have easily been weeks or years. It just kinda keeps jumping forward, taking a moment to pause on some particular thing Mary is doing (the twins’ arm thing, for example), then jumping forward again. Although we do get to see a flicker of emotional apathy in an earlier scene when Mary’s instructed to deliver bad news to a patient’s family, the subsequent editing propels her forward much too fast.
Mary gets very good very fast, too. Her first operation is the one for the girl who wants her nips off/vag sewn, and it goes perfectly. We get a shot of her body when it’s fully healed, and there is not even a trace of a scar. Boy, that suspension of disbelief just keeps getting tested.
Mary operates while wearing stiletto heels. I get the lingerie, but surely standing in stilettos for 14 hours wouldn’t be conducive to accurate, precise surgery.
Mary’s choice of dress for the supposed cocktail party that turns into a rape party is odd. As far as she’s aware, it’s just drinks with her professors. So naturally, she puts on the most side boob-spilling, staying-on-by-tit-tape, plunging necklined thing she can find. Bitch, that’s unprofessional.
She keeps her lecturer alive and miserable in a warehouse after chopping all his limbs off etc. She takes photos of him to publicise her “work.” These are immediately found by police when they raid her house (she’s already dead, but shutup). Idiot.
She also leaves the warehouse door open for no reason, which leads to a security guard stumbling on her setup, which leads to her having to kill the security guard. He died because you were too dumb to just close the fucking door behind you. Lazy.
The growing obsession between the club owner and Mary doesn’t end up going anywhere. It gets to the point where she’ll threaten other women just to intimidate him, and he fantasises about her stripping/dreams of her killing him. But then Mary dies and the movie is over. What?
Oh, and the Betty Boop chick and no-vag girl are pretty awful to look at. I understand that it’s intentional, but still. Ew.
Reasons to watch:
Katharine Isabelle (Mary. Duh) is fantastic, though. She’s come a long way since Another Cinderella Story (I never saw the Ginger Snaps movies. Soz). She looks great, and her voice reminded me a lot of Nina Dobrev. I love it.
Mary is very practical. Although it doesn’t really make sense, I like that she got in there and did her shit. She don’t mess around.
Her punishment for her rape-happy lecturer is divine. Much better than just straight-up killing him. Her other teacher complicit in the rape gets his comeuppance, too, at the hands of the club owner. Literally. He beats him into a bloody mess. Chivalry isn’t dead.
A couple of her other procedures are pretty cool, too. You’ve got no-vag, obviously. But there’s also a pair of German lesbian twins who ask her to cut their left arms off and swap them around. And she does.
Betty Boop is really sweet and earnest. Although they definitely missed an opportunity for Rose McGowan, there.
And I felt sad when Murder Husband killed her.
She sets up the second best line of the movie. Mary’s droll response is the tone of my soul:
Boop (appearing outside the hospital where Mary is learning): “You said not to call.”
Mary: “Showing up is worse than calling. By a lot.”
If only Blake Lively knew how to make lack of inflection so delightful.
Best line of the movie comes from Mary, who decides to spare the life of the stripper wannabe who tries to impress the club owner: “You were just in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong dick in your mouth.” Hey, it happens to all of us.
Mary brings her resumé to her stripping “interview.” Aww.
Her fantasy strip sequence is hot.
Oh, and Mary even tries to sew up her own stab wounds before she dies. I said she was practical, didn’t I?
It’s somewhere between exploitative trash and boring art piece. I just wish that ending hadn’t felt so arbitrary. 3 out of 5 stars.