American Mary (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 21-Feb-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-Soska twins, Katharine Isabella &Tristan Risk
Audio Commentary-Australian No-holds Barred Commentary with the Soskas
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Scenes Featurette (17:30)
Featurette-The Soska’s Down Under Tour
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 102:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jen Soska
Sylvia Soska
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Katharine Isabelle
Antonio Cupo
Tristan Risk
David Lovgren
Paula Lindberg
Clay St. Thomas
John Emmet Tracy
Twan Holliday
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Peter Allen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Mary (Katherine Isabelle) is a promising medical student specialising in surgery. She has problems with her lecturer Dr Grant (David Lovgen), mostly about her inattention in class; she is also broke, unable to meet her bills. To make some money Mary applies for a job as a dancer in a low end gentlemen’s club run by Billy (Antonio Cupo). When Mary auditions for Billy he sees her resume and asks her instead to use her surgical skills to sew up a badly tortured man for cash – a lot of cash – and Mary agrees. One consequence is that the next day Mary is contacted by Beatrice (Tristan Risk), a dancer at the club. Beatrice has undergone extensive surgery to alter her appearance so that she resembles the cartoon character Betty Boop. Beatrice tells Mary that a friend wants an unconventional medical procedure done, and is prepared to pay $10,000 cash. Mary is reluctant but the lure of easy money is too great. Thus Mary starts an alternate career in extreme surgical body modification procedures, proving to be very adept!

     Mary does continue her studies and is invited to a party at the house of Dr Grant. There Mary is drugged and raped by Dr Grant, who videotapes the rape. In response Mary has Billy abduct Dr Grant and over the course of some time Mary tortures him, practicing her surgical skills including amputation. She also continues her clandestine body modification business but things become more risky when Detective Dolor (John Emmet Tracy) starts to investigate the disappearance of Dr Grant. Mary believes that she has all things firmly under control; she is almost right.

     American Mary is the second feature film, after Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009), by the seriously weird writer / director twins from Canada Jen and Sylvia Soska. It has all the makings of a cult favourite; an out there premise, torture, blood and gore, revenge and macabre jet black humour. It has some gruesome scenes, however the majority of the surgery takes place off screen or obscured so the film is not, mostly, one where the audience squirms at the gory images on screen. The film does have some excellent special make-up effects and it is helped by a great performance in the main role by horror icon Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps). She looks wonderful, has very expressive eyes, and delivers a totally straight performance while surrounded by bizarre circumstances, although it must be noted that she is not much of an exotic dancer. Unfortunately, the other actors are not as good, and some, especially John Emmet Tracy as Detective Dolor, is unconvincing.

     American Mary, it is fair to say, has divided critics. I think it is entertaining in a macabre way without being too gruesome. It starts with an unusual premise and is lifted by a good central performance but for me the greatest problem is the plotting in the final third of the film, which is all over the place, with sudden shifts and an ending that seems totally random. In the second commentary on this Blu-ray the twin writer / directors say that things happen in life suddenly, thus their ending. I’m not sure it works in a film situation, which is unlike life. Still, American Mary is a well-made and interesting film, well worth seeking out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    American Mary is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code. The IMDb does not give the original ratio, but the Blu-ray in the UK (and the US, which is yet to be released) are listed as variously 2.40:1 or 2.35:1. I am in two minds – watching the film originally without knowing the aspect ratio I must say that it did not look obviously cropped. On revisiting the film, there are a few times when someone disappears off the side of the screen, but again it is not really obvious or distracting. Not that I want to encourage any distributor to crop films, but this one didn’t look too bad.

     American Mary included a lot of dimly lit scenes that did evince some light digital noise but on the whole the print was acceptably sharp and detailed, with good colours and skin tones. Blacks were fine, shadow detail sometimes indistinct. Brightness and contrast were consistent, except for a couple of scenes which were glary with the light source behind the actor. There was occasional slight aliasing and some ghosting with motion but marks are absent.

     There are no subtitles.

     The video looks fine. The aspect ratio may be an issue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     No lossless audio here, unlike the audio available on other releases. In Australia, the audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 192 Kbps. Two commentary tracks, each Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps round out the audio.

     Some of the dialogue was difficult to hear, sometimes because of soft voices, too loud music or the accent adopted by Tristan Risk. This is not an action film and the surrounds support mostly music and some effects. The subwoofer adds occasional bass to music.

     The score by Peter Allan (not the Australian performer who died in 1992) was interesting and included a variety of simple pieces with piano, lush orchestral scoring, Ave Maria or some heavy metal rock songs. It worked well.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The audio track is fine and does what is required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The Women of American Mary Audio Commentary

     Jen and Sylvia Soska, plus Katharine Isabelle and Tristan Risk chat and laugh a lot, but do have some interesting things to say about the production, costumes and locations. They are certainly enthusiastic about the film and it shows. There are two issues however that undermine the commentary. The first is that Katharine Isabelle is on speaker phone, and she is very hard to hear which is a pity as she probably has more sensible things to say than the others. The second is that the audio seems about 5 seconds or so ahead of the film, so when they discuss scene specific things they are talking about people and things that are not being shown on screen. I found that a bit annoying.

Australian Exclusive No-holds Barred Commentary with the Soska Sisters

    Recorded in Australia during the Soskas’ visit, people who are worried about foul language should avoid. Some things are repeated from the other commentary, but not a lot. This one is very wide-ranging, including sets, financing, influences including Dario Argento, experiences, casting and intentions. However, the commentary goes far beyond a discussion of the film, and the twins comment upon femininity, censorship, sexuality, rape, personal experiences in the industry and body modification among other things! Not your usual commentary!

Behind the Scenes Featurette (17:30)

     Unstructured behind the scenes video, with no linking narration or captions except to identify a few people. It is actually quite interesting giving a good feel of what it is like to be on set. Shows something of the working methods of the Soskas but does spend a lot of time on the sisters being made up for their small part in the film.

The Soska’s Down Under Tour (16:49)

     The sisters are driven around. They see some Australian animals and visit a zoo. Home video type footage: self-indulgent.

American Mary Trailer (1:18)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US release due out in June 2013 has English and German lossless audio, but only two short extras: The Soskas at Frightfest, and a behind the scenes. The UK Region A/B/C release has the same two lossless audio tracks, the making of and a featurette of the twins at UK Film 4 Fright Night, but not the audio commentaries.

     Our Australian release has by far the most extensive extras, with two audio commentaries plus the other featurettes. A review I have read of the UK release calls to audio track “totally wasted” but it is in the widescreen ratio. Buyer’s call.

Summary

     American Mary is the second feature film by the seriously weird writer / director twins from Canada Jen and Sylvia Soska. It has all the makings of a cult favourite; an out there premise, torture, blood and gore, revenge, macabre jet black humour and a good central performance.

     The video is only 1.78:1, not the widescreen available in the UK, and has non-lossless audio. The extras are more extensive than those available in the UK.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, April 15, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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