American Mary – A Look Into an Urban Gothic Story

 

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As far as horror nerds go, I didn’t get around to watching American Mary for quite a while. I knew it was being discussed and praised by fellow fans, but for some reason or another I just never happened upon a chance to rent, buy, or download it. Eventually, I even think I nearly forgot about it.

After a move to Portland from Las Vegas, I ditched cable and reactivated my old Netflix account. American Mary was one of the first movies I noticed. I queued it. I waited for a night the hubs was away. I binged on horror flicks, pizza, and Dr. Pepper 10.

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I decided to watch American Mary first. For some reason I just expected it to be the letdown of the flicks I’d intended to watch. Horrible to think, I know, but I did. I suppose it was just a knee-jerk reaction since it was getting a suspicious amount of praise from fans; getting over-hyped by the horror community, which happens often enough.

I’m proud to say I was proven wrong.

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First, let me discuss the story.

The short version is that the young and talented Mary, for monetary reasons, is driven to take a potentially lucrative job in exotic dancing. That doesn’t really pan out, however. Fate instead breaks down the door and, though it disrupts Mary’s initial plans, presents her with a secondary offer… To enter the world of black market surgery.

But the story really is a lot more than that. It’s a whole tale about a young woman’s descent into not only a shadowy underground, but a darkness within herself as well. Mary’s character crosses boundaries and taboos very hesitantly at first, but then with surprising and unnerving ease. She meets people who at first shock and terrify her, but then becomes the person that terrifies them. She goes from a stable and dedicated student to an unhinged and cold-hearted “surgeon”. The story at heart is about a woman who loses herself completely; a horror and tragedy play, and a premier piece of modern urban-Gothic storytelling.

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The characters in American Mary are easily the greatest asset to the film. Mary’s transition from sympathetic protagonist to anti-heroine is a thrill ride for the viewer to watch and the people she meets along the way through the realm of body-mod subculture are equally captivating and perfectly bizarre.

Billy, a liaison of the city’s underground network, with a darkness that mirrors Mary’s own. Beatrice, the maddeningly cheerful and cartoonish beauty, who rises as the brightest character of the tale. Ruby, a literal living doll. Dr. Grant, the story’s insanely handsome big bad wolf. And, of course, The Twins, shadowy yet seductive sisters who bring the film to an even higher level of subculture fantasy.

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These characters are so wild and outlandish that at first your just want to roll your eyes and dismiss them, calling the film ridiculous… but then you think about it more. You realize the truth that is people like these characters actually exist in the real world where you and I live. They move around in the urban underground, but we still share space with these dark, fairy tale figures.

And that’s where American Mary really succeeds. It makes you face the fact that there are shadowy, secretive worlds all around us, with people living and working in them just like our “normal” world. And that’s scary to some. The average person doesn’t want to acknowledge that people like Dr. Grant and Mary exist, or that darkness lives so close to us. Unconvinced? Tell me if any of these easily made-up news headlines would actually shock you if you came across them.

Woman Charged With Performing Black Market Surgery.

Model Receives Plastic Surgery to Become Living Barbie.

Prominent Surgeons Named in Organized Rape Case.

They’re not unbelievable ideas. In fact, sadly, similar things have already happened in the non-fictional world.

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The majority of my praise for the film naturally goes to the cast and crew. The Soska Sisters for birthing the story and the astounding cast; actors and actresses who were adept to bringing such wild and unique characters to life. They all truly succeeded in making American Mary an instant horror favorite and one destined for modern cult classic status.

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