‘American Mary’ is stylish, cringe-inducing horror

The Soska sisters are identical twins — really identical in that unless you get to know them on a personal and professional level, you cannot tell them apart. They also are unapologetic fans of the horror genre of movies, and were honor students in school.

The sisters, whose presentation at Monsterpalooza last October was marred by technical difficulties — their video segment could not be projected upon a big screen, forcing attendees to huddle up and peer at a laptop computer screen — have co-written and co-directed “American Mary,” now out on DVD and Blu-Ray, that has one of the most unique plots in the history of horror movies.

It deals with surgical body modification — an underground industry that goes way beyond body piercings. This subject alone should be ample warning to those who get squeamish at the sight of surgical instruments being put to use. Add the premise of revenge to this mix and you get a cringe-inducing little film in “American Mary.”

Katharine Isabelle, whose performance in the werewolf film “Ginger Snaps” caught the attention of the Soska sisters, stars as Mary Mason, a promising medical student specializing in surgery but struggling with serious financial problems and dealing with a verbally abusive teacher, Dr. Grant (David Lovgren).

Desperately in need of quick cash, Mary applies at a local strip club owned by Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo). Naively, she also brings her resume, which includes her educational background. Instead of hiring her to dance, Billy offers her even more money to repair the physical damage incurred upon an enemy of Billy’s by his henchmen. This job gets noticed by a stripper named Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk), who contacts Mary and brokers a deal between Mary and a friend of Beatress, Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg), a fashion designer who wants some very intimate body modification and is willing to pay handsomely for it. So Mary agrees to do the procedure, believing it will just be a one-time job.

However, Dr. Grant’s abuse goes beyond verbal and a distressed Mary quits medical school and begins a loose association with Billy, who sends her body modification clients. Also Billy arranges the abduction of Dr. Grant, enabling Mary to carry out a hideous and drawn out revenge.

The business is thriving despite a detective (John Emmet Tracy) hovering on the periphery, investigating the disappearance of Dr. Grant, and Mary’s own concerns that she is going crazy.

The Soska sisters make in appearance in “American Mary,” playing identical twins from Eastern Europe who seek Mary’s surgical services for a bizarre way to connect themselves to each other.

As expected, things do unravel for Mary, and even Billy finds himself haunted by brutal dreams. But the bloody climax is a surprise, thanks to a subtle set-up by the Soskas.

“American Mary” is a very adult and visually explicit film by the Soska sisters, this being their second project as directors, following up the grindhouse-style “Dead Hooker in a Trunk.” At Monsterpalooza in October, the Soska sisters conceded “American Mary” would have limited appeal but were confident its subject and production, superb given the budget limitations, would find its audience — those who like their horror served up in an uncompromising manner.

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