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American Mary (Blu-ray Review)

American MaryAs a child growing up in the 80’s I always lived in fear of losing one of my hands after I witnessed Darth Vader cut of his own son’s hand in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.  I went to great lengths to devise robotic hands and whatnot out of any material I could find lying around the garage and house.  Sadly, cardboard limbs just don’t suffice for the real thing.  See what kind of traumatic effect violence in films can have on our youth?  Haha.  However, it’s good to know that if I learned nothing else after watching today’s Blu-ray subject, American Mary, the human hand can be reattached if it hasn’t been more than 8 hours since the amputation.  Of course, situations may vary.  But hey!  That’s very nice to know.  And we all know that knowing is half the battle.  Furthermore, I also learned the same holds true for the arm clocking in at no more than 4 hours since amputation and fingers at 12 (DISCLAIMER: I have no factual data to prove this…just going by what was taught in the movie’s classroom).  With that being said, the future is looking bright for my phobia that still to this day haunts me.  But I digress…

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Film 

 So before settling down and snuggling up with American Mary the other night I had heard a lot of positive buzz about this 2012 Canadian horror film.  It peaked my curiosity and I wanted to see if the buzz was real or if it was artificial like the sweetener my girlfriend pours in iced tea sometimes.  The film uses the sometimes odd, but very erotic looking Katharine Isabelle as its star vehicle and was written and directed by The Soska Sisters (Jen and Sylvia).  This is their second directorial outing in the feature film world and from what I hear this is leaps and bounds better than their first entry, Dead Hooker In A Trunk.  The film debuted in London last year and finally made its way in limited release to theaters here in the States this month.  I know in the Austin, TX area, I have seen this at a few Alamo Drafthouses.  In addition to its limited theatrical run, the flick is making its DVD and Blu-ray debut this month as well on June 18th.  What more can you ask for?  Instant gratification, eh?

So you are probably wondering what it’s all about, huh?  What if I told you it was about the cosmetic surgery art of body mutilation?  Would you believe me?  Well regardless, I need you to read on because things get really juicy below…and bloody!

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I’m really scratching my head as this movie could have easily been called Bloody Mary.  However the more I think of it, who wants a title that has been used one hundred times before?  So here we are in the heart of our story.  Mary Mason (Isabelle) is an American medical student who is on her way to becoming a surgeon.  The only problem is her outstanding debt she has taken on in medical school and has become buried under to the point where her cell phone company has threatened to turn of her iPhone plan.  Oh no!  Say it ain’t so!  Not the iPhone!!!  You see, Mary wasn’t born with a silver spoon, but that has not stopped her from following her dreams and passions.  You have to admire that.

So she’s broke, she’s down on her luck and she’s forced to take on odd jobs to make ends meet.  As they say in America, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Isn’t that right?  So when she sees an ad claiming no sex and $1000 a day she quickly interviews for it at a strip club, but the job quickly becomes more than meets the eye when the owner, Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo), learns she is a surgeon and tempts her with a chance to make $5000 dollars cash in one evening, no questions asked.  Come on, who can refuse that?  Not I.

She accepts the job, but returns home in both panic and disgust.  You have to wonder, does she really have what it takes to be a surgeon?  Of course she does!  This is around the time when she meets Beatress (Tristan Risk), a stripper at the club where Mary interviewed who has had many surgeries to transform herself into a real life version of Betty Boop.  I’m telling you…this woman will haunt your dreams and not in a good way.  Anyway, Beatress is very well off and she offers Mary another job she seemingly can’t refuse.  Hey, everyone has their price they can be bought at, right?

So as our tale dives deeper into the forbidden and taboo world of body modifications, illegal operations and what not we are introduced to another “freak” by the name of Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg), who basically wishes to be transformed into a real life Barbie Doll and subjects herself to unthinkable lengths to achieve that.  I think you know where I’m going at with this one, right?  So here’s where the film really shines.  At this point I’m falling in love with it, more so than I was with the Man of Steel screening the other night.  Things are looking up for Mary.  She’s making money, learning a lot and even impressing her surgeon professors both in the classroom and in the field.  But why with the good must always come the bad?  Things take a turn for the worse as someone does something unspeakable to poor Mary, who I must say wears some really nice outfits throughout the feature.  And unfortunately, this forces Mary to do something even more unthinkable.  And for the sake of brevity and not dishing out any spoilers, I’ll stop there and talk about the logistics of the film and whatnot.  If I intrigued you enough, I do recommend you give this one a chance.  And don’t worry, I truly believe that even the most squeamish of viewers can handle this one.  Like The Human Centipede, it leaves a lot to the imagination in disgusting ways other than obscenely showing the gross out moments.

Remember up above where I said there was a point in time where I was falling in love with this film?  Well that part is true.  Despite the film’s ultra low budget, I thought it was fabulous up until a point.  Here’s what I think went wrong.  I call it “The Human Centipede Syndrome.”  There’s simply comes a point in a flick like this where you run out of places to go with the story and what kind of resolution it will have.  You can only be so shocking.  The second Human Centipede film proved that (and I hate it for that reason).  And it feels like at the film’s midpoint, the Soska Sisters simply couldn’t decide where to go with this, at least that’s how I felt about it.  We saw the deconstruction and falling of Mary’s character, but what was going to happen to her?  And then there’s this deal with these demon twins, who coincidentally where played by the directors themselves.  There was artwork that portrayed what they were going after as an end result of their self mutilation surgeries, but sadly we never saw the completed project.  However, I have done my due diligence and research for you people and have learned that the only reason they were never shown was because they simply ran out of filming time.  The feature was filmed in only 15 shooting days.  I repeat…only 15 shooting days.  Wowsers!  No wonder things weren’t perfect here…but in the long run that didn’t stop me from having fun with this one and it shouldn’t stop you either.  I believe this could be my guilty pleasure of 2012, in addition to Oblivion, of course.

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Video 

Xlrator Media brings American Mary to the Blu-ray format with a slightly above average AVC MPEG-4 encode framed in a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  Things are pretty safe in this department.  Nothing is wildly exaggerated or blown out and there’s nothing overly muted, just a normal, earthy and sometimes washy looking color pallet that I’m quite pleased with throughout.  Skin tones all appear natural and black levels are deep for the most part.  Things aren’t razor shaper with the utmost of Blu-ray pop, but they aren’t dull and blurry either.  It’s pretty much a picture perfect representation of a great indie film on the Blu-ray format, much like that of 2012’s Compliance.  Besides some compression here or there in the shadows, I didn’t detect any noise, artifacts or impurities in the print.  Things are in check here.  Moving on…

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Audio 

Just like in the video department above, things are status quo and quite acceptable here in the audio department too.  American Mary arrives on the Blu-ray format with a very adequate, safe and formidable 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless surround track that gets the job done in my opinion.  The film relies heavily on dialog and I’m pleased to report that those levels are very strong here.  I never once had to turn it up for dialog purposes.  There are some loud moments, mostly due to the soundtrack and miscellaneous metal tunes dispersed throughout, but for the most part this a very heavy, front-end track that again…gets the job done.   This isn’t one of those high octane action thrill rides that is going to rock your 5.1 setup’s world so I can’t really ding it for any points there.  This is your typical surround track for a narrative of this genre.  The rears come to life when they have to for screams, shrills and ambient sound effects, nothing more and nothing less.  I know you probably hate this saying as much as I do, but it is what it is.  English subtitles are available as a selectable option on the disc’s main menu. 

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Extras 

So we’re almost done.  You guys still with me?  Good!  There’s not much to be found in this section, but I’m very pleased with the bare minimum of what we actually get.  Let’s cut to the chase and not waste anymore time with proverbial nonsense and contrive.  Let’s dispense and dissect the extras…immediately!

  • Audio Commentary – Here we have an audio commentary that features not only the directors, Jen and Slyvia Soska, but also actresses Katharine Isabelle and Tristan Risk.  Have Isabelle, will follow.  If you really dug the film, then check this one out.  You get to relive all the gore, mutilations and sexiness onscreen with the people talking over it that are ultimately responsible for it all.  Ask yourself.  What could be better?
  • A Revealing Look at the Making of American Mary (HD, 17:32) – Hell yeah!  This one was worth the price of admission.  I loved this behind-the-scenes piece.  It was so interesting seeing the sisters not only behind the camera and in front of it, but also in the makeup chairs themselves.  If you liked the film at all, you owe it to yourself to see check this feature out.  It’s guerrilla filmmaking at its finest.  I gained a whole new respect for these directors.  I will definitely check out whatever their next “body” of work is, whatever that will be.
  • Trailer (HD, 1:35) – I think you know what I mean by the word trailer, savvy?

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Summary 

One of my favorite quoted headlines of this film, which actually made it to the back of the Blu-ray’s box art, reads “A Frankenstein for the 21st Century” by Ian Woolstencroft from Letterboxd.com.  Honestly, I couldn’t say it any better myself so my hat goes off to Ian and the marketing team for finding that quote.  American Mary is a lot of things, but if you like films in the vein of The Human Centipede that are unapologetic, then you’ve come to the right place.  The low budget restricts this from being a stellar product at times, but the subject matter definitely keeps your interest peaked as does that of Katharine Isabelle too.  This is definitely worth a a watch, in my opinion, for fans of the genre.  So it seems you have some choices to make.  You can either find it playing this week in a theater near you (if you are lucky enough like me), or you can pre-order this bad girl right now!  The choice is yours.  Choose wisely.  You must!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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