This Friday, the wait is finally over as American Mary, the Soska Sisters’ stunning follow-up to Dead Hooker in a Trunk arrives on VOD platforms this Friday, May 16th courtesy of XLRator Media.
The festival favorite that wowed audiences at prestigious venues like Screamfest, Fantastic Fest, Brussels International Film Festival, Leeds International Film Festival, Sitges and more, American Mary follows Katharine Isabelle in the titular role as a medical student who finds herself both broke and broken by the educational system she’s invested all of her time and money on over the years in order to achieve her dream of becoming a surgeon. After becoming fully disenchanted with practicing traditional medicine, Mary decides to open up shop in the world of illegal surgical procedures- more specifically, body modifications- pushing her into a dark and often dangerous world, threatening her crumbling psyche with every slice of her scalpel.
Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat exclusively with Isabelle about her involvement with American Mary as well as her thoughts on her subversive character. The actress also discussed collaborating with the Soska Sisters and much more. Be forewarned, the last question with Isabelle ventures into spoiler territory so skip that section if you don’t want anything ruined before checking out American Mary later this week on VOD.
Dread Central: Congratulations on a fantastic performance- I absolutely fell in love with this strange world that the Soskas’ created here. Was it just as intoxicating in script form? How easily did you fall into Mary when you first read the script- or did you have any early impressions of her?
Katharine Isabelle: Oh, thanks so much! And well, it’s kind of funny- the script was sent to me and my manager kind of pitched it to me as these ‘twin sisters who wanted me to be in their horror movie’ so I think I kind of laughed it off a little bit at first. Later that night I thought I’d just skim through the script just to give it a shot and I pretty much read all 180 pages straight through on my Blackberry; I was obsessed the minute I started reading and decided I wanted to meet the Soskas immediately.
We met up for sushi and I think we were instantaneous best friends the moment we sat down together; we hung out until the middle of the morning I think and I knew I had to do this movie. They were so attractive, so easy to like, so in sync with each other and their intriguingly hilarious humor made me realize just how unique their talent is and how fucking phenomenal they are as artists.
And in regards to Mary- as a woman, you don’t get offered characters like Mary very often, if ever. She’s someone who has so much depth but there’s just not one redeeming quality about her at all. She’s so not stereotypical at all and I think that’s why people like her even though there’s really no reason to like her at all. She’s not a good person and she never does anything to make you like her but you still can’t help but want to like her all the same.
I just gravitated towards Mary so much as a performer because it’s so rare to see such a complicated female character that’s so weird and interesting and just totally unredeemable; those kinds of characters are so rare to find and are so precious too that none of us- myself or the Soskas- didn’t want to let Mary down at all. We treat Mary as if she’s real; that’s how serious we are about making sure we do justice to her as a character (laughs).
Dread Central: Was it atypical collaborating with a pair of filmmakers on American Mary rather than with just one person, or was there not much of a difference at all?
Katharine Isabelle: I have to say that there was nothing typical about my experience making American Mary as a whole but working with Jen and Sylvia was just astounding; they really are CO-directors in every sense. There is no ego between them whatsoever and I’ve been in situations with directing teams where it can be kind of sketchy as to just who’s in charge over certain things. This wasn’t like that at all. To be honest, I’ve never seen two people have such a unified front when it came to filmmaking before- even when they didn’t agree, they’d still take a moment to talk it out, come to a decision and then that’s what it was as things went forward.
There was never one moment of dissention between them at all- they were so incredibly in sync with their approach to this story that I knew if I had a question for one, the other would completely agree so there was never any questioning anything on my part. Sylvia’s more of the bubbly type who always has this sense of effervescence to everything she says and does and Jen’s the far more serious, more accurate personality so they make an amazing team of filmmakers. They even co-wrote the script back and forth; one would write one scene and then one would write the next one; they never had to confer about what they were each writing because they were that in tune with each other and this story; they have that much solidarity and trust between them and that’s so rare to experience.
Dread Central: Because of Mary’s ‘hobbies,’ your character gets to have a lot of gory fun but also probably required you to train a little to get some of the medical procedure techniques right I would imagine. How much preparation did you have to do going into American Mary and did you enjoy getting messy for the role?
Katharine Isabelle: Oh yeah, all that stuff was so much fun too- I had a blast doing all the gory stuff and when I bludgeoned the security guard, that’s actually my friend so that moment was fun in a lot of other ways for me too (laughs). The great thing about genre movies is that they often allow you the chance to do things or experience things you never would in normal life, and that includes body modification for me. That wasn’t something I was knowledgeable about at all and the Soskas were so sweet about immersing me in this world which can be scary to people who nothing about it. The thing I also really appreciated about American Mary is that both Jen and Sylvia handled the body modification elements with such respect and a lot of filmmakers probably wouldn’t have done that; at least not the way they did.
But I did get to do a lot of suturing, that’s something that Russ Foxx helped me out with. I’m a pro at suturing a turkey now (laughs).
WARNING!!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Dread Central: It’s interesting to me that you talked about Mary as ‘unredeemable’; do you feel like her fate was fitting then since she wasn’t necessarily a character that should have lived even though you do end up liking her and wanting her to live?
Katharine Isabelle: Thank you for saying that- I have to say that I LOVE the ending and what’s interesting to me is that a lot of people think that it should have been different or that Mary should have lived; I totally disagree. Things HAD to happen this way for Mary- there was no redemption for her and for her to suture herself up as her final ‘masterpiece’ was a beautiful moment to me. It’s also the second time we actually see Mary smile throughout the movie so that moment was really about her finding peace and she does at the end, in her own weird little way. There’s no way she should have lived and I was happy to go out the way I did (laughs).
For more on the film, visit the official Twisted Twins Productions website, like American Mary on Facebook, and on Twitter follow American Mary (@_American_Mary) and the Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska (@twisted_twins).
This metaphor for the Soskas’ own journey through the independent film industry follows medical student Mary Mason as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the twilight world of body modification and underground surgeries where obsessed flesh artists will pay anything and go through any pain to get their unusual procedures done. But Mary soon finds that her new “profession” leaves more marks on her own psyche than on her freakish clientele.
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