Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Nonsensical and all-around third-rate, American Mary offers up Human Centipede-style surgical horror, except this time with endless absurd eroticism. Proceeding from multiple illogical places, Jen and Sylvia Soska’s film concerns a busty brunette med student (Katharine Isabelle) whose fondness for cutting and sewing up flesh isn’t good enough for her professor, who scolds her lack of attention during lectures by noting, “I have enough twats in my class.” At such a classy institution of higher learning, it’s no surprise that Isabelle herself turns out to be a psycho, taking a job at a local sex club run by Antonio Cupo so she can earn some extra cash, and then immediately agreeing to do torturous operations on his enemies. This, in turn, leads her to establish an underground surgical business for plasticine Barbie doll-ish freaks and, soon afterwards, to a full-time gig helping people find themselves through body modification—a practice that she carries out with shiny phallic instruments, while wearing a variety of skimpy dresses, in workrooms that are all severely under-lit for maximum creepy-sensual gloominess. After Isabelle is drugged and raped by her prof—whose deviant villainy is telegraphed by his endless use of inappropriate profanity—she exacts revenge by performing all manner of creepy procedures on him, including amputations and sewing his mouth shut while dangling him from hooks tethered to his flesh.

Thus is born a monster in the vein of Human Centipede’s Dr. Heiter, a link that’s blatantly underlined by Isabelle operating on incestuous twins alongside a German assistant who gleefully namedrops Josef Mengele. It’s all in the name of boundary-pushing S&M nastiness, designed to titillate and horrify in equal measure. The Soskas’ gore is dreary and unimaginative, their visual palette is unvaried, and their cast’s turns are amateurish and unconvincing. Worse still, the story’s suggestion that Isabelle is a force of vengeful empowerment—not just because she punishes the wicked, but also because she otherwise helps people fully express their true selves by splitting their tongues, making their nipples heart-shaped, or doing gross things to their penises—is so underdeveloped and tossed-off as to be embarrassing. Rife with conversational scenes that only function as filler, and scored to a mixture of generic heavy metal and sensual techno that reflects the proceedings’ photocopied nature, it’s a film that, in its every wannabe-symbolic shot of mutilated and blood-soaked bodies, is literal to the point of being laughable.

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