To me, Jen and Sylvia Soska are a huge pioneering force for women in horror, particularly when it comes to body horror. I first discovered this brilliant Canadian duo when I stumbled across American Mary, and they completely blew me away.
American Mary tells the story of Mary Mason, a medical student working hard to become a surgeon. She is struggling to make ends meet, trying to make sure that her family doesn’t worry, and dealing with a huge prick of an instructor in her classes. Desperate for cash, she takes a job at a strip club to make ends meet. What follows is a story that delivers something for absolutely every type of horror fan, as Mary is drawn into the underground world of body modification that needs her particular set of skills.
What makes this story stand out from the torture porn type of story is…well, the story. This film has a beautiful story arc, starting with a wide-eyed, somewhat naïve Mary, and showing her descent into the underbelly of society. This is an original tale that will leave you reeling, wondering, as Mary does, how the hell we got here. Mary is smart and capable right from the beginning, believing that she can handle any situation, and that she is in control. She wants to be at the top of her game, the opening scenes of the movie showing her practicing sutures on raw meat at home alone into the late hours of the night. Equally so, in her work at the hospital, she knows fully what this job takes. It means telling people that their loved ones have died, it means making life or death decisions, and it means not letting any bullshit that you don’t have time for get to you.