Categories
Film

Film: American Mary (2012)

‘Everything is forgivable, if you do a good job.’ but this doesn’t apply to Mary Mason.

American Mary is my first watch by the Soska twins, and while it did leave me with mixed feelings, those feelings did not feature a moment of boredom. 

I do not like to start my reviews on a negative, but I would be lying if I didn’t note that the refreshing lack of boredom was also unfortunately accompanied by a few too many moments of disappointment. The daftest moment being that when Mary’s beloved Nana passes away, the first thing she does is delete her contact from her phone. Mary’s Nana passing away provided absolutely nothing additional to the plot, and the writing of this moment (I’m sorry Soska twins) was nothing less than stupid, unnecessary and unrealistic. This is unfortunately how I felt about a lot of the script, and American Mary’s rather rushed ending. 

Similarly, and as many other reviews have already noted before me, I am incredibly troubled by the rape-revenge narrative prevalent in female-led horror films. I am additionally troubled by the unnecessary sexualisation of females in horror – however, this did not stop my queer gore whore self from relishing in Katharine Isabelle pouring blood all over herself as she dances, and it also did not stop me from taking some form of pleasure in seeing her get her revenge. Yet, seeing Mary clad in tight PVC as she tortures her r*pist still troubles me – I feel as though the Soska twins almost definitely intended for Mary’s sexualisation to be in fact a form of her power; she is very much in control of her own body after her attack. This still doesn’t stop the horrific and unnecessarily long r*pe scene from troubling myself and other viewers. The video footage taken of Mary during her attack could’ve sufficed. While it is important for films to be graphic and feature violence to really burn messages into audiences’ minds, the r*pe scene of American Mary (and many other female-fronted horror, both classic and contemporary) seemed like yet another scene almost made for perverted male-viewing pleasure. For those of you have seen the likes of The Last House of the Left, or I Spit on Your Grave… you will know what I mean – and this greatly disappoints me from the female director-writer duo.

What I also found troubling – but fun – about American Mary, is how we are also led to genuinely be a fan of all the characters here (bar Mary’s r*pists). Lance, Beatrice, Ruby, and even Billy, all seemed to have some sort of weird sympathetic space in my heart by the end of the film – even though the likes of Lance and Billy maybe shouldn’t have done. However, when a man offers you ‘titties and shrimp’ following your brutal murder of your r*pist and a cop… it’s hard to not love him. With that being said, this film had a lot to offer besides its main plot. That being said though, I cannot fail to mention the scene in which Mary walks in on Billy receiving head from a ‘new girl’. Mary had shown no interest in Billy up until this point – and maybe she suddenly desired him after learning he had killed Dr. Walsh for her (however, it is not explicitly stated that Mary knows this and only an assumption) – but it still does not make sense to be in a film that begins with discussions of female empowerment. Mary’s anger should’ve been directed at Billy, for being just another sleazebag if anything, rather than Billy being turned into a ‘victim of unrequited love’ that we are almost asked to sympathise with.


While my list of issues with American Mary seems rather daunting, I did enjoy the film. Without the unnecessary rape scene, failed messages of female empowerment, and poor dialogue, this film could have easily exceeded my current opinion of it, but I will never be able to award a film that features such graphic r*pe scenes but yearns to scream ‘female empowerment’ more than 3 stars (out of 5). The premise of the film is incredibly strong, but I feel the Soska twins could’ve gone in a different direction that did not essentially glorify Mary’s brutal attack. The film in itself was still crafted wonderfully – the Soska twins employed a creative mixture of shots, some beautiful uses of light and music, and did a very good job of showing rather than telling. Through the character of Ruby Realgirl, and Mary’s eventual career in body-modification, we are provided with a lot of ideas regarding female empowerment, beauty-standards, objectification and sexualisation of women that I found to be quite powerful and quite important, but unfortunately, we simply did not see enough of Ruby (or even Beatrice, really) for this to overpower the issues I have with the film.

The ending was incredibly unexpected, but without any spoilers, I couldn’t have seen Mary ending up in any other way once we got to the final half an hour of this film. It did feel a little disappointing overall, but realistically, Mary was soon no longer a desperate student, and became what we can only describe as the ‘monstrous feminine’. Overall, the Soska twins have provided an entertaining film that is aesthetically pleasing to view and constantly keeps you guessing. The dark humour and unique side-characters really brought this film together for me and made me enjoy it overall, but sadly, I can’t help but with the Soska twins could’ve created something a lot more powerful here.

Categories
Creative

Story: Desolation

Based on image prompt here.

Everything opposing me was unapologetically urban.

For as far as I could see, there wasn’t a single sign of life that wasn’t human; no trees, no blossoming flowers and no restless weeds attempting to fill the cracks in the pavement. Only monoliths of concrete soaring from each sidewalk in the same, ceaseless arrangement. I enjoyed my nights here because even though there was no chance of me seeing any stars, thanks to the fumes that consumed the sky, the lights that seared from every building acted as a man-made sky that was beautiful enough.

When there are no lights to admire or people to watch through windows, things can be tiresome around here, but I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. This growing metropolis soon made me it’s first casualty and its inhabitants forgot about beauty and pleasure in exchange for constant, monotonous routines of work. They don’t enjoy life anymore; they just survive.

As a product of this municipality, I doubt there has been any second-thoughts to what I’ve described. In the first line of this dreary, melancholic monologue I said that everything was opposing me. I could’ve said that the cityscape was ahead of me, in front of me or simply just described what I saw without placing it anywhere.

I say opposing because not only was it in front of my eyes – it was against me too.

***

This morning, in the half-light, everything ahead of me was eerie. The cityscape was fantastic as ever although more frightening than it had been that previous day. I couldn’t quite figure out why things didn’t feel the same as they usually did. Even with the scurry of pedestrians on the streets and the horns of restless drivers, the air didn’t seem to move around me. I almost feel as though the lack of movement in the air was asphyxiating me even though I didn’t breathe anyways. My immediate surroundings seemed bereft of noise, almost as though I was in a bubble. I could only view; I couldn’t interact.

The sun travelled across the sky and hours passed like any normal day; yet, as they did, a feeling of alienation approached me. Despite the people outside, I was entirely alone. Nobody had come to visit me. I am a nocturnal piece and I was aware that I shouldn’t allow myself to venture during light hours, but you know what happened – I couldn’t help myself.

Something wasn’t right, and it couldn’t be shaken from me no matter how many people my vision focused on and false lives I created in my mind. My memory is hazy now. I remember every feeling as vivid and dynamic as though it was only a few minutes ago in which I experienced it but envisioning the scenario itself proves to be a task. I think I might’ve been created with that in mind.

I turned away from the window which I was blessed of being placed by and I can only remember that my soul left me there and then. I don’t know what struck me first but the rest of the room, lit only by the sky itself had been ransacked. Maybe not ransacked by thieves, but a careless team nonetheless. Everything had been taken but me – pages of well-loved books had been torn from their spines and left to wander the stained, glass-penetrated carpet. Amongst the mess, I was unaccompanied. Whilst I recognise that it was selfish, my only thought was my loneliness. I wanted to escape, to run down the street until someone caught me and examined me until I couldn’t handle it anymore but that wasn’t within me. Even if I did find some foreign courage to vacate that property and discover where the rest of my belongings had gone, I was attached to wires.

In my nonchalant state of eulogizing the city, I’d been too obedient to make any attempts at moving away from my position. Now that I did, I found that I couldn’t move far. Whether this was intentional, something more macabre or an attempt at making the modern world connect with me, I couldn’t recall these wires being pinned to me. Nobody knew of my animate state, so why they would want to keep me entrapped in this desolate, newly-diseased skyscraper is unknown. I had many questions but mainly I wondered why.

***

At the current moment, I scrawl this out onto the only scrap page from some sort of novel, probably Hemingway, that I could reach; I finally know why. The abandoned gallery, the destroyed books and the need to bound me – the disrespect towards what some would once value as treasures wasn’t entirely meaningless. As this city grows, so does technology and the need for instant gratification. Art doesn’t provide that anymore as it once did. My purpose has been served and now I am abandoned, left to be tortured by my surroundings as I watch this city destroy itself and forget about me.

Yet, there is still one question I am left to trouble myself with to pass time here and that’s the reasoning behind my captivity. Who had bound me here and left me? Did they know what I really am?