Excision (2012): Review

Director/Writer: Richard Bates Jr.
Starring: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords
7/10

When I was at Sundance, this film had already generated a lot of talk. Whether people liked it or not, everyone agreed on one thing: it was gruesome as hell. It became one of my most anticipated films of 2012, and it took me forever to find it.

“Excision” is a psychological horror-comedy told from the perspective of the main character, Pauline (McCord), a teenager who is repulsive in almost every way. Stuck in a pastel house with an overbearing mother (Lords), Pauline fantasizes about becoming a famous surgeon. She becomes more delusional and disgusting with each scene, as she works toward a final goal: to cure her sister’s cystic fibrosis.

Overall, the tone is similar to “Heathers” and “Ginger Snaps,” though “Excision” tops them both in terms of violence. Pauline seems to be on a quest to do as many repugnant things as she can before the film’s running time goes up, and she does a damn good job of grossing you out. Most of the time I found myself laughing in sheer disgust. The film’s more serious moments are handled just as well, though, particularly the heart-stopping ending. It’s funny at times, but Bates forces you to acknowledge the true darkness of the events by the end.

The characters are what make the film both entrancing and hard to handle. Pauline is a little too much of a smart ass at times, but she’s fascinating to watch. Her sexually charged, gore-filled dreams are the real treat of the film – gorgeously shot, full of trippy violence that is both beautiful and hideous. Lords plays the hell out of Pauline’s mother Phyllis. The dynamic between them is all over the place – hilarious, disturbing, and heartbreaking all at once. Cameos by the great Malcolm McDowell and John Waters, among others, just add to the fun.

Technically, “Excision” is done well. The color palette is vibrant, echoing 50’s motifs, which is a perfect dichotomy to the imagery. The dream sequences, as I said, are very impressive. Bates executed (no pun intended) a strong vision for the film, and the style is very confident, especially for a directorial debut.

It has its flaws, of course – Pauline is at times unrealistically nasty – but the film is loads of fun, and the ending is absolutely horrifying, guaranteed to haunt you for a while. As a horror film it works terrifically, and even transcends its genre a few times. Definitely recommended, if you’re in the mood to be grossed out, and maybe moved a little along the way too.

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