American Mary Blu-ray Review
Warning, this film was made by twin sisters with some serious issues.
For a budget movie shot in just fifteen days, this really does look very good. The 24fps all digital workflow has paid dividends and the girls had the sense to engage a good lighting cameraman in Brian Pearson. The majority of the movie is set in Mary’s seedy apartment and an equally dingy strip club. Both sets exude low level detail and look suitably sinister. Noise is extremely low, with no evidence of pushing the gain to make up for low light. I did notice one odd image effect early in the movie. At the end of a scene, leading into a transition, there is a strange ghosting effect, almost as if the clip has been doubled up with a slight delay between the two. As it hits the transition it all goes a bit spacey! Other than that, my only real issue is that the movie is so dark in places you really need to watch in a very dark room to get the best from it.
The colour palette is murky reds and browns, while skin tones seem to be a little on the rich side. This would appear to be deliberate to bring out the blood and add to the murky, underground feel of the film.
There is some evidence that the black level has been crushed somewhat as occasionally it is tricky to see the darker greys against the black, but on a well set up TV nothing too important is getting lost in the gloom. The camera work is mainly tripod and stabilised hand held, so don’t expect too many big tracking shots. This works OK, but does reduce the scale of the film to some extent.
If only this could have been as good as the picture. Sounding like it was mixed by a teenager, in his bedroom on his home hifi, it lacks any subtlety in terms of effects placement, dialogue becomes buried and muddled in places and the punky, rocky soundtrack pounding out is at a much higher level than the dialogue, with compression all too evident. Effects simply don’t work, with things moving around, almost at random and very little in the way of ambient. The seedy strip club is laughable, with disconnected pieces of random dialogue shouted over a music track that in no way relates to the gyrations of the dancers. The cutting scenes needed much more in the way of slicing, moaning and screaming and when we get real intense close ups of the actor’s faces, their shoulders heaving with heavy breathing, it would be nice to hear the breath sounds, not some clumsy dubbing. During a couple of outside scenes, the mics can be discerned pinned to the talent and the rustle and clank of clothing is quite intrusive.
The DTS-HD MA stream is totally wasted here, with the dynamic range not fully utilised. Bass is simply too heavy and disconnected from the rest of the music track and occasional thudding effects. Even for a budget horror movie, the lack of attention to detail is hard to ignore. The problem is, it is easy to overlook these shortcomings as you sit excitedly waiting for whatever will assail you next. It is only when you start to analyse what you are listening to that you realise that this is the weakest aspect of the movie.
Thankfully these are quite limited, as I am not sure how much I could have taken to be honest. This UK release gets a straight forward making of, following the on-set production process and a look at the UK premiere during Film 4’s Fright Night Festival. Filmed on a variety of camera phones and small shaky camcorders, the making of is fairly average and suffers from featuring far too much of the Soska Sisters swearing their way through showing off about what they are accomplishing. The scene where they are made up with the body modification props has the two of them sat there virtually nude while prosthetics are applied. It just feels self-indulgent and does nothing to change my view that these attention seekers have no understanding of the whole scene they are trying to represent.
The second extra follows them attending the UK Film 4 Fright Night festival that showcased their film. Having read a couple of reviews from people that attended it, this appears to have has been heavily edited, as they got a bit of a bashing on occasions from the audience and these are edited out. Their rubber “operating” surgeon’s outfits look comically out of place, while Katharine Isabelle looks positively demure in somewhat more normal clothing. They do not come across as particularly intelligent and their self obsessed nature comes to the fore yet again.
Content Advisory, this film contains scenes of a shocking nature and will attract plenty of interest for this reason alone. It goes to show what happens when you spoil your children and let them make a movie about their inner desires, even if they are too straight to actually enter the scene themselves. There really is very little of merit here, except of course for the explicit sexual content and plentiful supply of bloodied, tortured bodies. If this sort of thing turns you on, seek help.
Technically the picture actually looks very good, being full of low level detail and suitably dark. A shame the same cannot be said for the quality of the sound or the extras. Both of these belie the budget nature of the movie and the sound in particular limits the “enjoyment” of the movie.
I am finding it difficult to recommend this movie as it fails to tick any boxes for me. The gore is not that intense, the themes shocking rather than disturbing and the basic storyline really doesn’t work for me. That being said, this sort of film does polarise opinion and some may love it for its fairly original content and feminine direction. Personally, I will give it a miss.
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