"American Mary" will Freak you Out!


The body modification subculture is sort of the like the old time carnival freak show. People surgically mold, sculpt and pierce their way into something else but the person on the inside stays the same.  The 2012 film "American Mary" features Katherine Isabelle, the breakout star of 2001's "Ginger Snaps", as a Med student who finds herself performing body mod surgeries that she finds out is quite good at.

Being a poor college student Mary Mason answer's a Craig's List style ad for a sleazy strip club owned by an even sleazier younger guy.  During her "interview," something goes terribly wrong outside and Mary if offered $5,000 to do some impromptu surgery on some guy.  She is freaked out but does it.  Word gets around to the underground body mod culture and she is approached by some pretty strange characters to help them finish their work.  Isabelle plays Mary perfectly, she is desperate enough to take these strange jobs but is still grounded and very professional.  She provides a desperately needed service to the extremely rich who believe she is an artist who works in the medium of skin.

She is first pursued by Beatrice who has transformed his/her body into Betty Boop.  After completing surgery on her for $10,000, her friend Ruby comes calling next.  Rudy is transforming her body to look like an anatomically incorrect Barbie Doll and has a few things cut off and one thing sewed up.  The film has a darkly comedic thread throughout.  Ruby, Beatrice, and the others are all portrayed as good people on the inside, but different on the out.  While the exact opposite is true about the other so-called normal people.

Back at school, Mary is invited to a swanky party thrown by one of the big shot surgeons, but she has unknowing just stepped into the lion's den.  She is drugged and raped by the surgeon, but little does he know the unique skills that Mary has recently acquired.  Mary exacts swift and painful revenge upon the Doc.  Making him her test subject for new procedures, keeping him alive and aware the whole time.

"American Mary" is full of interesting unique characters and well played throughout.  It was written and directed by the Soska twins, Jen and Sylvia, who also play parts as customers to Mary.  They bring a real sense of authenticity and care to the film, that would have been lost had it been done by anybody else. 

Take a Trip to the "Garden State" with Zach Braff


Zach Braff from "Scrubs" fame brought this indie classic to the screen in 2004.  He wrote, directed and starred in the critically acclaimed film about a man who returns home to New Jersey after a ten-year absence to attend his mothers funeral.

Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a struggling actor living in L.A. whose only big part has been playing a retarded quarterback in a cheesy movie.  His father is a psychiatrist who has been treating him for most of his life.  Prescribing all kinds of meds that have put him into a fog, moving through his life as a sort of emotional zombie.  His mother was a paraplegic and how she became that way is the event that has shaped Largeman's life.  Upon returning home he meets up with people he knew in high school.  Mark, played by Peter Sarsgaard, still lives at home.  He digs graves and scams the local hardware store for money.  Nothing changes in the old neighborhood.  Everybody goes about their business and every once in a while a guy like Andrew Largeman is able to escape and try to make something of his life.  Although one guy in the neighborhood did make it big by inventing silent Velcro.  Largeman is just as lost and messed up like everyone else. 

Soon enough everything is about to change.  While in a doctor's office waiting room Largeman meets Sam, played by Natalie Portman.  An almost too perfect local girl who we find out has epilepsy.  Their relationship builds over the course of the film to a satisfying but somewhat clich├ęd ending.  "Garden State" has a great overall feeling to it.  The characters a very real and down to earth.  They feel like your own friends and are quite relatable.  It's the timeless story of one man's journey to find his place in the world and to reconcile his past.  It's about Largeman coming to grips with what his dad had put him through as a child and being able to move forward.  It is the quintessential indie film with a great soundtrack that on awards in itself.  Take the journey with Andrew Largeman and watch "Garden State" tonight!

Get "Closer" with Natalie Portman and Clive Owen


It starts with a look and the unforgettable song the "The Blowers Daughter" provided by Damien Rice.  Walking the busy streets of London two people lock eyes and make an instant connection only to have it end in near tragedy.  Dan, played by Jude Law, is eyeing Alice, played by Natalie Portman, only to have their flirting session end when Alice is hit by a car.  With only a few cuts and scrapes, Dan waits with her in the E.R. and they get to know one another.  Alice is a former stripper who just moved to London from New York after a break-up, while Dan is a struggling writer and journalist who currently writes obituaries.

"Closer" is Directed by legendary Mike Nichols and adapted from the play by Patrick Marber.  It's the story of 4 characters that all get involved with each other and make each other rather miserable.  Along with Dan and Alice, we have Larry (Clive Owen) the dermatologist and Anna (Julia Roberts) the photographer.  We jump ahead a little bit and Dan has completed his book and is getting his head shot taken by Anna.  Although he's in a relationship with Alice, he can't help but fall in love with Anna.  She is also into him but doesn't want to hurt Alice.  Angered Dan sets up a prank that ends up backfiring on him.  In a very funny scene that is probably taken straight from reality, Dan poses as Anna in the sex chat room and strikes up quite the filthy conversation with Larry.  Knowing that Anna will be at the Aquarium he set up Larry to meet her where another very funny and awkward scene takes place.  Through that meeting, Anna and Larry fall in love and eventually get married.

All of the characters get their fill of jealousy, anger, and betrayal but Dan gets the worst of them all.  He is tormented and played around with by all three.  He is weak minded and easily manipulated.  His lack of loyalty and pure jealousy costs him, Alice, not once but twice.  Once he inadvertently introduces Anna and Larry he dooms his chances forever with her. Larry is the exact opposite, he is like a caveman with an overactive sex drive.  He is smart and will stop at nothing to get what wants.  Ana is a down to earth fine art portrait photographer who falls in love with both Dan and Larry and must make a choice, but it seems like it has already been made.  Alice is a strong independent woman who is looking for a new start in London but after her first break up with Dan, she goes back to her old ways.  Alice is a mysterious character and the one we know the least about.  Anna is jealous of how young and beautiful she is and this is probably why she is into Dan.  Alice is many things, a tease, a flirt, and a manipulator.  After a bitter argument, Larry goes to a strip club where Alice is working.  Since Larry is quite obsessed with her he pays for a private dance and she plays the part perfectly.  "Lying is the funnest thing a girl can do with her clothes on," she says at one point.  The story ends seemingly as it should almost like fate has intervened and told these characters what should happen next.  We close with more "Blowers Daughter" and Alice? walking the streets of New York looking as beautiful and as confident as ever.

"Maniac (1980)" is Completely Insane!


With it's off the charts creep factor and brutal violence, the low budget 1980 slasher "Maniac" was an early classic in a decade of memorable horror films.  What makes this film so utterly disturbing is the performance by Joe Spinell as Frank aka the Maniac. His homely look and doughy physique give him a very relatable everyman kind of quality.  He walks beside you on the street and is unnoticeable in a crowd, but he is completely and utterly insane.

Frank Zito lives in a small apartment with a bunch of female mannequins which he dresses up with his victim's clothes.  As a final touch, he scalps his victims and nails the bloody matted hair to the bald mannequins.  The creepiest element of the movie is its use of sound.  We constantly hear Franks heavy breathing like some obscene phone call.  His rambling thoughts are played as a voiceover on a number of scenes.  You are literally in the mind of a killer.

Like a lot of movie madmen, Frank has serious mommy issues.  His mother was a prostitute who brought numerous men into their apartment to conduct her business.  Frank was also beaten and abused as a child.  When his mother dies suddenly in a car accident, it sends Frank over the edge into madness he will never come back from.  His victims are primarily prostitutes who he gleefully strangles and scalps.  One day in the park he meets Anna, a fashion photographer, who shows an interest in him.  He sees Ana as his one last shot at a normal life.  He is a perfectly charming gentleman around her, but how long can this last? Apparently not for long as he dispatches one of her models while she's taking a bath in her unlocked apartment.  Talk about making it easy for him.

The special effects were done by the legendary Tom Savini who has the bizarre job of making his own head explode.  He has a small acting part in the film credited as "Disco Boy" along with "Disco Girl" are making out in a parked car when the Maniac starts peeping.  He eventually hops on to the hood and shoots him point blank in the face with a shotgun.  Savini's head explodes in a gruesome slow-motion scene that foreshadows a scene to come in Cronenberg's film "Scanners".  Unable to control the crazy beast within Frank loses Anna and falls into a sort of death spiral. "Maniac" is truly a carnival of insanity all the way to the gory end!

"C.H.U.D" Another Cult Classic from the 80s Horror Vault


Cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers or C.H.U.D's are the hideously deformed mutants living in the sewers of New York City.  Although back in the eighties it wasn't that much better on the surface.  Like many of the 80s horror movies, I've reviewed this one has also become a cult classic.  From its B-movie style monsters to its dirty and sleazy depiction of the big rotten apple.

George Cooper is a fashion photographer who lives with his girlfriend/model Lauren in a small apartment in the city.  She gets pregnant and they have the should we or shouldn't we talk about whether to keep the baby.  They give a very strong pro-choice message and she chooses to keep the baby and that's all were ever hear about it.  Professionally George is in kind of a rut and is looking to break out of it.  He got his start in photography by documenting homeless people in the sewers.  So he decides to revisit his roots and meets A.J., played by Daniel Stern, a young and energetic soup kitchen owner.  People have been disappearing and they set out to find answers.  This movie made me think a lot about the Clive Barker story than movie "Midnight Meat Train" which has a similar plot involving an NYC photographer discovering horrifying people within the endless sewer tunnels. Although Barker's story is pretty hardcore and violent, while "C.H.U.D" has more of a comical side to it.

George and A.J. find out that the nefarious city employees have been storing nuclear waste in these tunnels until they can move it somewhere else.  It's too late as it has started to change the sewer people into the C.H.U.D.'s who hunger for human flesh.  When the C.H.U.D's start appearing on the surface the city they must be dealt with.  The C.H.U.D's themselves look like guys in big slimy latex suits with glowing yellows eyes and are kept mostly in the shadows for obvious reasons. 

With the NYPD now on the job we go inside a cafe and meet a couple of New York's finest eating breakfast with one of them being played by the yet to be famous John Goodman.  The city plans to gas the sewer to kill off the C.H.U.D's but our heroes are still down there.  Will they survive both the C.H.U.D's and the NYPD?  This is a fun and schlocky movie from the 80s horror vault.