M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on May 31, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!


Directed by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
Written by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
Starring Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, Twan Holliday, Nelson Wong, Sylvia Soska, Jen Soska, Paul Anthony, Travis Watters, Marius Soska
Find out more about this film here!

If one has never seen recreational body modification in its various forms, I can understand why some folks would be seriously ooked-out by AMERICAN MARY, the latest in what seems to be a new wave of body horror films which may have been restarted with HUMAN CENTIPEDE, but has really taken shape with this past year’s VICTIM, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, EXCISION, and ANTIVIRAL, to name a few. I don’t mean to be jaded, and while I don’t have any body mods myself, I have seen my fair share in my time. So on that initial shock level, I wasn’t taken aback as much as I imagine one unfamiliar with the subculture would be upon first viewing of AMERICAN MARY.

That said, AMERICAN MARY is one hell of a movie. It’s well acted by GINGER SNAPS’ Katharine Isabelle and newcomer Antonio Cupo. Both actors effortlessly exhibit an attraction, yet an inability to show it toward one another because of the situation they have found themselves in. The story follows Mary (Isabelle) a down and out med student in need of a quick buck answering an ad as a stripper in a gentleman’s club. While there, Mary’s skills as a future surgeon is called upon when she is offered $5,000.00 to illegally operate on an associate of the bar with his eye gouged out. Mary takes the offer and finds herself spiraling down the rabbit hole into dark subcultures and deviant body modification for an immense amount of profit which would shut those student loan callers the hell up.

The way this film is put together is eloquent and delicate, yet somewhat cold. Even the opening scene, as Mary practices her operating skills on a dead plucked turkey, the camera zooms in to show this delicate operation with thin instruments making precise cuts. AMERICAN MARY is slow in development and shows a patient hand storytelling-wise, but I wasn’t bored a tick as we see Mary get further and further entrenched in this shadowy world. The directors, Sylvia & Jen Soska, twins who also appear in the film as…what else…twisted twins with a unique request for Mary’s operating skills, keep things pretty distant though, only showing us slight peeks as to what’s going on inside of Mary’s head with only a few scenes of her reacting to these intense situations like vomiting and taking a shower in her clothes (both of which are pretty cliché). The music is amazing, mostly consisting of Rod Stewart songs and prove to be amazing juxtapositions with scenes of medical nightmares. And the gore is pretty intense with quite a few brutal kills, scenes of torture, and more than enough scenes of bizarre medical procedures. This film is definitely something I can see gore hounds delighting in.

While showing these procedures is enough to gross out some, I found myself wanting to see more of Mary’s struggle with tossing her dreams of taking the Hippocratic Oath out the window for profit and once tossed, seeing her struggle with the increasingly bad decisions she makes as the story goes on. The Soskas seemed uninterested in these inner tickings and more interested in showcasing the body mod in the second half, which gives me a sense that the filmmaking duo had less of a grasp on how a doctor creating all of these body manipulations might deal with such an inner conflict. Modifying a body unnecessarily would create quite a stir I would imagine with one as unfamiliar with the culture as Mary is at the beginning. In the end, Mary comes off as jaded, which I felt to be somewhat of an emotional cop-out. It’s almost as if the Soskas were too close to the subject matter to be objective about it and give us a real picture of how this conflict would play out to the uninitiated.

Aside from that, I really liked the film. Sure, the ending is a bit rushed, but that goes back with me wanting the character of Mary to be fleshed out more substantially rather than the pacing. AMERICAN MARY is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen this year in its attention to a subculture that has been relatively unexplored in horror films and some gorily effective scenes handling some extremely sensitive subject matter (rape, torture, body mod). It’s a testament to the actors and the filmmakers that I wanted to get one step closer to this film and learn more about the conflict in the central character even more.

THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!

#8 – EVIL DEAD 2013
#14 – WITHER
#16 – JUG FACE
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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