Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is nearing the completion of her medical studies as she wishes to become a surgeon, but there are problems, mainly with money. She's running low on funds, and has to find a job to make ends meet as well as risk the wrath of her tutor Dr Grant (David Lovgren) who is pressuring her possibly due to her gender, but scouring the internet one night she finds some reasonably high paying work in the sex industry. She's not going to stoop to prostitution, but wouldn't mind giving massages - however, when she arrives for a nightclub interview, it's not what she expects...
Or rather, it is what she expects until she hands over her resumé, not something she needed to do but a crucial plot point in the development of American Mary into a horror movie. Although Canadian, this was less a cool David Cronenberg take on body horror than a feminine curiosity about the extremes certain people will go to for the purposes of realising their most comfortable incarnation in their own skin. Most would apply that to their psychology for peace of mind, if that's something they can achieve, but the individuals Mary encounters are more inclined to find peace of body. To that end, they need a surgeon who will operate on them.
There were really two separate threads occuring here in the Soska Sisters' follow up to their cult hit Dead Hooker in a Trunk, and this looked to be courting the same audience who would be intrigued about a woman's take on the kind of horror movie usually the province of men. In that preoccupation with appearance and what one can do to enhance it, this was indeed in possession of a female approach, but rather than makeup it was cosmetic surgery which was the main concern. Yet the other thread was an almost dutiful admission that this alone was not going to live up to the sisters' burgeoning reputation, so there had to be a violent aspect to the scenario as well.
There was a sense that once the Soskas had established their world, and it's intricately realised with great attention to detail, they ran out of ideas with what to do with it other than slasher clichés, but fortunately the premise was strong enough to carry it through what could have been hackneyed in less certain, lazier hands. Mary's introduction into an underworld is convincing as she happens to be in the right place at the right time (or otherwise) to patch up one of the nightclub boss's men who has been injured, the boss being Barker (Antonio Cupo). One thing leads to another, and because of that resumé Mary's name gets passed onto Beatress (Tristan Risk), who looks a little unusual.
Thanks to cosmetic surgery to make her resemble cartoon character Betty Boop, that is, and she has a friend who wants to look like a doll, that is, with no nipples and no genitals. Mary is taken aback, but agrees when they offer her a lot of money she really needs, then makes it clear this is a one-off. Of course it isn't, and she decides to leave medical school after being raped by Dr Grant at a sex party she unwittingly attended, thinking it would help her career. Instead of being presented as a sex object as she might have been in a male writer and director's guidance, Mary was sardonically brought to sympathetic life thanks to good scripting and clever acting from Isabelle, getting a role which suited her down to the ground after a lot of middling TV; her fans would want better for her than that, and she certainly got it with this. Even when Mary turns to torture and murder, we can see it's a reaction against her debasement, so if it was secretly a bit too conventional in storyline in spite of its aspirations, there was intelligence in its musings on objectification here. Music by Peter Allen.