November 30, 2023

American Mary – It’s Not (That) Gory, But It’s Good

American Mary (2012)In 1973, producer Tobe Hooper was searching for a distributor for his film Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which he also co-wrote).  Due to its violent nature, Hooper attempted to limit on screen gore to secure a ‘PG’ rating.  His attempts were unsuccessful as the MPAA gave it an ‘X’ rating for its violent content.  After cutting several minutes, it was finally given an ‘R’.

However, to this day, TCM is often remembered as the epitome of gore.

I’ve often heard American Mary was pretty gory as well.  It’s not, but it’s a good revenge movie that doesn’t fall into the trappings of showing us gore while forgetting about story.

American Mary is about a young med student named Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle from Ginger Snaps, Freddy Vs Jason).  Mary doesn’t have much money, and needs some desperately.  Student Loan Services won’t stop calling her for payment, and she is three months behind on her cell phone bill.  She responds to an ad in Craigslist looking for dancers (No sex required!).

While on her interview at the seedy strip club, she is presented with the opportunity of making $5,000 (with no questions asked).  The club’s owner (Antonio Cupo) leads her to the basement where a tortured man lies on a table dying.  Mary saves his life, receives the money, and leaves.

A few days later, a stripper named Beatrice (who has had her face surgically altered to look like Betty Boop) approaches her with a request:  Her friend wants to become a living doll (i.e. no nipples or other visible female parts).  Mary completes the surgery.  The ethics concern her, but she becomes intrigued by extreme body modifications.

She looks like plastic, and she never said "Boop boopie do Boop!" once.
She’s all plastic looking, and she never said “Boop boopie do, Boop!” once.

As this twisted alter ego develops, Mary excels at the hospital.  She is happy when the surgeons at the hospital invite her to their party (thinking she is gaining credibility).  When she gets to the party, we realize that these men are not good men.  Mary is drugged and raped.

Mary’s two lives converge at this moment.  She quits med school and focuses on extreme body modifications.  She exacts revenge on her one time superiors.  She enjoys the perks of her career.  She still questions her morals on occasion, but pushes them aside with psychopathic (emotionless) actions.  Mary lives a dangerous life, but she is good at her work (and that’s what matters to her).

I enjoyed American Mary quite a bit.  It was beautifully shot, and there was just a touch of something being off.  Even though it was about body modifications/revenge, the blood is minimal.  We see some messed up visions, and we see an occasional unattached appendage.  But, for the most part, the movie is driven by story.  It also has strong sexual overtones as well, but minimal nudity.  Isabelle owns this character physically.

The one thing that confused me about American Mary was whether she was a psychopath or just in shock after the party.  She never seemed to have any emotion outside the occasional self doubt, and talked in monotone the entire film.  As I said, physically she owned this film.  But, I was not a fan of her developed character here.

I’m guessing she was meant to be portrayed as an enigma, though, as the strip club’s owner falls for her.  I liked this story line quite a bit as it basically is all one sided.  Billy fantasizes about Mary.  Mary uses Billy (and may reciprocate his feelings).  It had a very realistic tone to it.

The dialogue is good (laughed out loud at the her bodyguard’s lines a few time), and the story is twisted.  The film is written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka The Twisted Twins), and they even make a cameo appearance in the film.  The characters react reasonably to the situations they are placed in, and everything converges well for the finale.  Props, ladies.

While American Mary may not be the goriest film of 2013, its twists, turns, and good storytelling will keep you enthralled.  There is gore, but it’s just the right amount.  The characters are intriguing, but I did feel Isabelle’s character was a little plain.  But, then again, so were Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.  While they wore masks, Mary hides in plain view.  This film is definitely worth a look.


I love horror movies, and I have since I was young. My favorite genre is the zombie genre, but it has completely been overdone in the last few years. I'm not a big fan of the horror movie formula, and I love it when a director turns it on its head. Please follow me on twitter (@_trapjaw_) and like me on facebook (scaretissuetrapjaw) for updates and to be immediately informed of new posts/projects.

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