The National Student interview
by Alex Taylor
American Mary is the new horror film directed and written by Jen and Sylvia Soska, otherwise known as The Twisted Twins. With body modification as the main theme of the story we see medical student Mary use her surgical skills to her advantage. At first purely for financial reasons, it soon turns into a bloody tale of revenge.
TNS managed to grab a quick interview with directors Jen and Sylvia Soska and lead actress Katharine Isabelle…
How’s the UK tour going so far?
Sylvia Soska: I feel like we’re Led Zeppelin without the musical talent or drugs. It’s really fun meeting everyone, it’s sort of like doing a play because usually when you make a film you don’t see the audience reaction but here we do.
Jen Soska: I’ve been to a lot of screenings and you aren’t sure how the audience are going to react, but the U.K. absolutely gets it. They were laughing their asses off which is my favourite thing.
S.S: We must have watched too much Fawlty Towers growing up, because our sense of humour is just so dry.
What made you use the subject of body modification?
S.S: Well I found body modification on the internet through reading about this story which I thought was real but turned out to be a prank, where two identical twin brothers actually switched limbs. I obsessed about it and thought it would be a great idea for a film.
We were introduced to Russ Fox, who’s actually a body mod artist, he came on set and looked over the script. There are two things which are fantastical which wouldn’t happen but everything else is possible.
J.S: He plays penis guy in the film actually.
A lot of the gory parts in the film aren’t actually shown, they’re more implied. Is that to encourage the audience to use their imagination and create fear through not knowing?
S.S: Yeah, well I believe that it’s the thought which really gets under your skin, the lead, in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre you don’t actually see the hook go through the girl, but your mind tells you “oh I see this, I see that.”
Katharine Isabelle: It’s more tiddly.
S.S: Exactly, it’s important for us to reference the kind of work which first got us excited about the genre.
You direct together; do you ever have issues agreeing with each other? Or having different ideas?
J.S: We Joke that, Sylvia is the Lars Van Trier and I’m the Joss Whedon. I put the heart in and then she rips it out, rapes it and takes a sh*t on it.
S.S: If I’ve had enough coffee.
J.S: Of course, only if you’ve had enough coffee to properly do what you want with it. We always tend to get to the same goal. Oddly enough you wouldn’t be able to watch American Mary and say ‘Jen directed that scene’ or ‘Slyvia wrote that scene.’ We do fight of course but never on set and 99.9% of the time are we on exactly the same page.
In the film, the typical gender stereotypes are reversed, is it nice to play the murderer instead of the victim?
K.I: This character was so much more than just not a victim. She was an incredibly talented, true to life, multidimensional human being. Women in film tend to be sweet or motherly and it’s sometimes hard for people to think of them with any capacity of evil.
There are a lot of interesting props used in the film – did you take any of these home with you after filming?
J.S: Well Sylvia has got Mary’s medical bag here with her now, and Katy has ordered one which I keep promising her is coming. Where Mary keeps her little rolled up knifes and weapons, that was actually Dana Scully’s from The X-Files.
S.S: More interestingly, the character Ruby in the film, one of her nipples is hanging on the wall, we have lots of spare nipples now.
S.S: I’m going to try really hard to get the Dr Grant puppet so I can hang him up and when people walk in they’re like “Oh, so you are insane.”
American Mary shares a lot of similarities with American Psycho, a good looking lead with a job high up in society with a dark, hidden side. As well as having similar titles. Is that very purposeful?
S.S : American Psycho is directed by Mary Harron. American Mary, it’s on there pretty thick. I love that book, I love that character. The thing is, there are so many characters like Patrick Bateman, Freddy, and Pinhead. But except for Asami Yamazaki in Audition, there are not many female characters that really explore the female capacity for evil.
J.S: American Psycho was all about appearances as well. Everyone is so far each other’s ass they can’t tell one person from the next. So fixed on materialistic values they can’t see what’s real. I love how he would go into such detail about the clothes he wore, and then go into the same amount of detail about how he had jumper cables connected to the hooker’s nipples. I think that was essential to the violence and creates a great character.