25 September 2013

September 25th

American Mary (2012) directed by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
I wish there were more female horror directors.  I forget how refreshing it is to watch a horror film from a non-male perspective.  Mary is a powerful woman, but not because she is forced into defending herself from a stalking slasher killer.  While it is true she is stalked, drugged and raped by an evil man, she captures and tortures the perpetrator almost immediately.  This is not what the film is interested in.  Far more important is Mary's discovery of her inner strength and artistry, and how applying those things changes the way people see and react to her, and how they change how she reacts to other people.

As in the narrative, Mary's power is emphasized nicely using visuals.  My favorite comes early in the movie, when Mary is broke and desperate for money.  She responds to a pseudo-Craig's List ad promising $1000 for private dances and sensual massages at a gentlemen's club.  Normally in a film, we'd expect her interview with the sleazy club owner to be entirely controlled by the sleazy club owner.  The desperate applicant would provide only token resistance before taking off her clothes and begging for a job.  In Mary, the sleazy club owner's view of Mary is presented like this:
This shot has Mary completely towering over the owner, her eyes narrowed in a dismissive, semi-hateful gaze.  Though the owner is coaxing her through an audition, Mary is clearly in control.

If I have any complaints, they are minor and reflect more on my own psychology than anything else.  For a movie about the body mod community, it is surprisingly tame.  The gore effects are fairly minimal and all of the worst things that happen are implied instead of shown.  I think the movie could have pushed things a lot further, which would've really emphasized the horror of the work Mary does and why people are afraid of her.  I dunno.  I'm probably just desensitized by both horror movies and the Internet.

I enjoyed the movie a lot.  It has a lot going on in it to chew on, Katharine Isabelle's performance is excellent, and it is beautiful to behold.  I can't wait to see what the Soska twins do next.

Watched: blu-ray from XLrater.

No One Lives (2012) directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
American Mary was probably about the worst opening act this movie could have.  It put me in exactly the wrong mood for this sort of film.   Whereas Mary had a point of view and something to say, No One Lives's only goal is to create a cool villain.

I'll give it to them: they try really, really hard to make the villain cool.  The nameless man -- called Driver in the credits -- played by Luke Evans is pretty much Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando as a slasher killer.  Not only will the guy not stop stalking his prey -- killing them using Jason-like tools such as scythes and tree grinders -- he also has an extensive collection of high-tech weaponry that he uses to set up elaborate traps.  He is Super Slasher, an unkillable ninja-Leatherface.  It gets ridiculous.

Ridiculousness is fine -- I like Troma -- but that's not the tone the film is going for.  There's an attempt to grab some Devil's Rejects-style ambiguity, with Driver mostly stalking a family of thieves and murderers.  However, at the same time, he's Stockholm-syndroming a young girl. It's not lighthearted stuff, which makes the super-killer act Driver is pulling feel even more out of place.

Also: longest. horror movie shower scene. ever.

Watched: DVD from Anchor Bay.


  1. that's too bad. Kitamura is usually an interesting and entertaining watch. But i haven't seen one of his movies since his Godzilla (which was the first film of his i thought was a waste of my time).

    he used to be...well...something interesting.

  2. I liked Midnight Meat Train, but I'm wondering if that's more due to Barker's influence now.

  3. Guess I liked NOL a little more than you - still not enough to consider purchasing it, though. I'll give 'em credit for trying something a little different, even if it doesn't quite come together as satisfactorily as it should.
    As for American Mary, I too was hoping it would be higher up on the vomit meter than it was (considering the subject matter). Still, hell of a performance by Ms. Isabelle, and one of the few great female character studies in horror film.

  4. American Mary was mostly worth while for Isabelle's performance, which is excellent and makes me wonder what she's been up to in between this and "Ginger Snaps." I too found the film worked a lot better as a dark comedy or character study then as a horror film. The ending really came out of nowhere. The Soskas are ones to watch though. As for female horror directors... The only ones I can think of are Mary Harron, Mary Lambert, Angela Bettis, the lady who did "Slumber Party Massacre," Katheryn Bigelow kind of counts. There are far too few.

    "No One Lives" was a major disappointment for me, since Kitamura is usually a lot more interesting. The premise had potential but the tone was too grim for what I think they were going for. And not a single likable or interesting person in the whole picture. Luke Evans is the new Sam Worthington, the next random actor Hollywood chose to become a big action hero.