Interview: American Mary Directors, the Soska Sisters, Talk Horror, Surgery, and the “Fair” Sex
Due to space constraints, we had to cut the “Splatter Matters” horror news page from the forthcoming issue of Revolver, which hits newsstands on June 4. The issue’s column had covered the new film, American Mary, which was directed by twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska and was just released on VOD. The movie is also getting a theatrical release in 25 theaters across the filmmaker’s native Canada on May 30th, with the surreal short The Captured Bird opening. The director of The Captured Bird, Jovanka Vockovic just so happens to the editor of the “Splatter Matters” page, and below, we share her interview with the Soska Sisters.
While horror cinema has long had a place for strong female characters that best the Bad Guy as the film’s “final girl,” women are rarely depicted as powerful killers. That genre convention is turned on its ear in American Mary, the sophomore feature from Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk), twin female filmmakers with a penchant for horror.
“There are ridiculous notions that women don’t have a capacity for evil and there’s a lot of Western influence pigeonholing female characters in film,” writer-director Sylvia Soska says. “You have these iconic male horror creations: Freddy, Pinhead, Michael Myers, Jason, and Norman Bates, but who is the lady you would not to go anywhere near? A true femme fatale?”
The Soskas’ answer to that question is American Mary, a provocative body-horror film that stars Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle as a disenfranchised medical student who begins performing illegal operations for the body-modification community and eventually escalates to exacting sadistic surgical revenge on those who have wronged her.
“The story of a young woman struggling in a male-dominated business, where, despite her ability, she is seen as below her male counterparts and more as a party favor or sexual object, isn’t anything new,” explains cowriter-director Jen Soska, who says the film is analogous to her and her sister’s own experiences in the film industry. “It is a story that focuses so much on appearances being everything and there is a lot that women can relate to.”
As such, American Mary is a direct reaction to the bland stereotypes in mainstream genre films. “We’d heard the Twilight saga called a ‘feminine horror,’” she explains. “That just pissed us off.” Adds Sylvia, “Martyrs is a female horror film. Inside is a female horror film. American Mary is very much a feminist body-horror film.”
Featuring “one of the most tasteful nipple removal and clitorectomy sequences ever made,” according to Jen, the movie is also a potent marriage of sex and surgery—which, until now, has been the province of one other famous Canadian filmmaker obsessed with venereal horror and bodily transmogrification. Not surprisingly, David Cronenberg was an inspiration to the twins.
“Dead Ringers, as you might be able to guess, is one of our very favorite films,” says Jen. “Cronenberg is a trailblazer. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be making the films we are.” Sylvia elaborates, “We even homage Dead Ringers in the twin surgery scene by putting Mary in the red scrubs. I love unique storytellers, the ones that have an unapologetic voice in their art. Cronenberg has always been that.”
An author, filmmaker, and journalist working in the horror genre, Jovanka Vuckovic is Revolver‘s resident fright-flick guru, the writer of each magazine’s “Splatter Matters” column. She was recently named one of the top 10 most important women in the history of horror. For more, visit jovankavuckovic.com and follow her at @JovankaVuckovic on Twitter.