American Mary, Mister White, and Why I Watch Low Budget Horror

American Mary is currently available on instant Netflix

One Line Review: Body modification horror is absolutely fascinating.

American MaryAmerican Mary (2012) – Rated R

Medical student Mary Mason is becoming dissatisfied with her path in life, mostly because she’s piling up massive debt. But when she’s offered a lucrative opportunity to get involved in extreme body-modification surgeries, she jumps at the chance.

Rated R for strong aberrant violent content including disturbing images, torture, a rape, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.

First, I have to post my disclaimer. American Mary does include a rape scene, which is normally an automatic ‘no’ for me. I enjoyed American Mary in spite of the scene in question but viewer beware.

Films like American Mary, The House of the Devil and Erica Summers’ Mister White are why I am willing to sit through all the drek that low budget horror has to offer.

I was initially looking forward to this simply because Katharine Isabelle was the ironic star (American Mary is Canadian). I adored the female coming of age allegory disguised as a werewolf movie, Ginger Snaps. The two sequels were also very enjoyable if not up to the level of the original. Unfortunately after that I have only seen her pop up in guest appearances.

Twins Jen and Sylvia Soska wrote, directed, and produced American Mary. They had previously made the cult film, Dead Hooker in a Trunk. Not only do they appear as twins in American Mary but their father and mother, who remortgaged their house to finance the film, also have cameos as Dr. Janusz and a female officer respectively. American Mary is clearly a labor of love and it pays off.

I do not have a great deal of knowledge in body modification. Tattoos and non-ear piercings were not at all commonplace when I grew up yet most of the people I know now have them including my daughters and son-in-law. When the outrageous becomes common, boundaries have to be pushed further for people to establish their individuality.

American Mary is hard to define as a horror movie. It also is not really a revenge film although that is a theme that runs through it. The Soska sisters have found a way to weave as much body modification as they can into Mary’s descent or rise or empowerment (it can be viewed many ways) as possible.

American Mary is best viewed as an entertaining and fascinating overview of body modification. The storyline is somewhat episodic and does not always gel properly but all of the incidents are fascinating and drawn from real life. Katharine Isabel is engaging as Mary. Tristan Risk, a burlesque dancer, plays one of the more fascinating characters, Beatress Johnson. To say more of her character would be a spoiler.

American Mary is highly recommended.



Ginger Snaps – Amazon Prime Week

Ginger Snaps is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

“Ginger and Brigitte, two sisters trapped in suburbia, are obsessed with mayhem, torture and death… until they get a taste of the real thing.”

“They don’t call it the curse for nothing.” – Tagline

“Just so you know – the words just and cramps, they don’t go together.”

Canadian horror has long been a favorite of mine. I love any horror movie by David Cronenberg – I am sorry that he has graduated to more mainstream, ‘important’ films. Cube (1997) is impressive and spawned the not nearly as good sequels, Cube 2: Hypercube (2002) and Cube Zero (2004). In 2009, there was the interesting but flawed Splice.

Ginger Snaps, written by Karen Walton and directed by John Fawcett, is one of the best werewolf movies I have ever seen. The action is sporadic but fierce until the final act. Fawcett disdained the use of CGI, opting instead to go with prosthetics and makeup.

The best films have a theme that is often different from the plot of the film. The Godfather is all about family and Aliens is about motherhood. Ginger Snaps is all about coming of age as a woman, lycanthropy equals puberty. The equation is not at all subtle but is very well-handled. There is also a strong message of female empowerment in the film.

Ginger Snaps has a very inventive credits sequence, showing a series of staged deaths by our goth teen heroines. It gives you an idea of the level of dark humor in the film and is then revealed to be a class project but it lets us know that the Fitzgerald sisters are a little disturbed.

Katharine Isabelle plays the Ginger of the title, a high school student just getting noticed by the boys. Emily Perkins plays Brigitte, her dweeby sister. The sisters are very close and clearly have anger issues. The two of them have wonderful chemistry and are definitely a part of what makes the film so great.

The sisters carry the film so the supporting cast really is just support. That said Mimi Rogers is excellent as the clueless mother. Her character gets more complex in the third act. Kris Lemche is good as the drug dealer Sam.

Be aware that in addition to the usual horror gore, Ginger Snaps is very foul-mouthed and features sexual and drug-related situations. In short, it is about high schoolers.

People Watch: Yes, that is Lucy Lawless (Xena) heard over the school loudspeaker. Also listen to her page Theodore and Sam Raimi.

Sequel-itis: Ginger Snaps spawned two more movies, both in 2004. Ginger Snaps Unleashed is a sequel and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is a prequel of sorts. Both are actually quite good (if not the classic that Ginger Snaps is) and Ginger Snaps Back is currently available on instant Netflix.