Written and Directed by: Jen and Sylvia Soska
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Take one part David Cronenberg, one part Atom Egoyan, add a dash of David Lynch and you have the new film by Jen and Sylvia Soska, AMERICAN MARY. With their second film, The Soska twins prove that they are a team that should be taken seriously in the world of horror. To say that AMERICAN MARY is strictly a horror film limits its scope a bit as I feel that it is something beyond a typical horror film and strives to go further than what average scream cinema encompasses these days. AMERICAN MARY is a highly ambitious film that is equal parts drama, thriller and horror film. Despite what the trailer and marketing are feeding the masses about this movie, this is not a movie that is NOT simply about gore and scares. It goes slightly deeper than a typical slasher and is a solid achievement for everyone involved.
AMERICAN MARY tells the story of Mary Mason, a medical student swimming in debt who finds herself plunged into a dark and alternate world of medical oddity when she answers an online employment ad. I don’t want to ruin the plot by spelling anything out here but the universe that the Soska twins toss their protagonist into is one that I really don’t think has been explored in any other movie. For that alone, the Soska twins get points, but it is the effectively bizarre and lacerating turns of the rabbit hole that they send their Mary down that solidify them as talents to keep an eye on. While the script does have its flaws, the Soska siblings grab the director reigns so powerfully and guide their tale with such professionalism that AMERICAN MARY becomes a strongly entertaining horror film for those with the constitution to be able to handle it.
Katherine Isabelle (most commonly known for the GINGER SNAPS movies) delivers what could be a star making performance. While I did feel that her acting in the beginning of the movie was a bit self-aware as the film moved along I think that Isabelle fell deeply into her character and displayed an oddly intriguing mix of detachment and sensitivity that sucked me in. In all honesty I don’t suspect that it was any fault of Isabelle’s that I had problems connecting with her character in the early moments of the movie. The movie’s early act was one of the film’s few trouble spots. My biggest qualm was with why her character would so willingly thrust herself into the underworld she discovers without deep reservations. To me Mary didn’t seem to have reached the point of desperation that I feel that someone would have to have to do the things that she ends up doing. Regardless of this nitpick, I feel that Katherine Isabelle is still able to rise above the somewhat small flaws in the plot and serve up a very memorable performance. The last thing I’d have to say about Isabelle is that if Joss Whedon is out there and is still looking for his Scarlett Witch for the next Avengers movie he need look no further. Katherine Isabelle is the one you want Mr. Whedon. I’ll expect my ten percent finder’s fee after you see AMERICAN MARY.
In the end AMERICAN MARY serves as what looks to be a primer for an impressive writer-director team. Some people may be unnerved by it and others may find it not to be quite what they were expecting, but in the end what the Soska twins deliver is a solid beginning to what may turn out to be a long and impressive film career.