Excision – review by Bill Howard
There is nothing more enjoyable in my life than watching a film and having my mind blown. It has happened many times over the years, especially in horror films. Horror just encompasses such a wide spectrum of ideas, it is a shock and surprise when you pop a movie in and this happens. Films like Irreversible, Inside, Calvaire, Angel Heart, The Cell, Dead Ringers, High Tension have all shattered what I thought going into them. And they are films that have stuck with me long after viewing. You can add a new film to that list with Richard Bates Jr.’s Excision.
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is not a popular girl. In fact, Pauline is quite delusional and disturbed. She has aspirations of one day being a surgeon, but alienates herself from everyone around her with her strange behaviour. She hates her mother (Traci Lords), is indifferent to her father (Roger Bart), and cares a great deal for her younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter) who has Cystic Fibrosis. She wants nothing more than to one day become a surgeon so she can fix her sister’s diseased lungs. She also hates the popular girls at school and has fantasies of performing graphic surgeries on them. But amongst her quests to lose her virginity and make it through each day of school intact, Pauline must also deal with balancing reality with her vivid imagination.
From the very first frames of Excision, you will know you are in store for something different. And as soon as you meet Pauline, you know you are dealing with someone who is not right in the head. Pauline has no social awareness at all, she lives in her own distorted reality and thinks everything and everyone else is screwed up. In the role of Pauline, AnnaLynne McCord is a revelation. This former model and star of 90210 sheds all vanity and transforms herself into the ultimate high school reject. Pauline always looks unwashed, has bushy eyebrows, has no tact when talking to others, and has ratty long hair and an acne ridden face. In her fantasies she is done up and sexualized, a person of power and dominance over all she interacts with. She is the supreme ruler in her fantasy world and all others are just playthings. In all versions of Pauline portrayed within this story, McCord is striking. The supporting cast are all great here as well, especially with Pauline’s parents. Traci Lords definitely shines in her best role ever as the domineering mother of Pauline. She is spiteful and favors her younger child over Pauline. She tries to mother Pauline but is repulsed by her at the same time. The counter to Lord’s crazy mother is Roger Bart’s indifferent father. Bart always steals the show when he takes a role, and was the main reason I loved Hostel II. Here is just a dad trying to get through each day with a sick daughter, a strange daughter and a high strung wife. He would like nothing better than to just watch TV and eat ice cream, but he can’t even do that without catching hell. His facial expressions alone make his performance memorable. But it is in the construction of the film itself that Excision really stands out. Richard Bates Jr. masterfully handles the balance of Pauline’s reality and her shockingly drastic fantasies. The reality parts play out like a quirky blend of Superbad and We Need to Talk About Kevin, while the fantasy sequences are in a world of their own and are hard to compare to anything. But somehow Bates Jr. makes the transitions work, and when the final credits roll, you will definitely be talking about Excision to other people. A pleasant surprise, a strange and disturbing ride, some laughs along the way, and an unmistakeable signature style make Excision one of the most unique films of the year and an experience that is not to be passed up. Recommended.