Excision (2012)

Based on a short film, Excision is the darkly comic, disturbing and thoroughly compelling tale of Pauline; a social outcast with a pushy Mother, a sister with Cystic Fibrosis, an obsession with both blood and surgery and the Worlds worst eyebrows. It’s visually arresting, exceptionally well acted and mind blowingly different to anything else I’ve seen lately.

Pauline is a strange character; exceptionally flawed, undoubtedly demented and yet endearingly awkward all at the same time. AnnaLynne McCord is an utter revelation, playing her with just the right amount of pathos and the sort of fearless lack of vanity that recalls Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich. She’s in almost every frame and as such the whole thing rests squarely on her shoulders but she doesn’t disappoint. Surrounding her are a bizarre but excellent cast of memorable bit-parts. The ever dependable Malcolm McDowell as a teacher, Modern Family’s Ariel Winter as Pauline’s boy obsessed but critically ill sister, Ray Wise as the school principal, John Waters as a priest/therapist and Traci Lords as Pauline’s domineering Mother.

It’s a dream cast for lovers of cult film and everyone involved delivers wonderfully but make no mistake, this is the McCord Show and could very well stand to be a breakout role for an actress previously best known for televisual abortion 90210. She displays a deep understanding for our troubled anti heroine and succeeds in not only making her bizarrely likeable but astoundingly heartbreaking as well.

Visually, Excision is nothing new but it still looks great. It’s as garish as a Gregg Araki picture, as tongue in cheek and inappropriately funny as anything cast member John Waters can come up with and as emotionally affecting as May. It’s easy to draw parallels between the two films, in fact. Both involve sexual awakening in a very troubled, confused young woman but while May just wants a friend, Pauline seeks the impossible approval of a Mother who just can’t quite love her. They’re similarly brilliant roles for women in horror and not since Lucky Mckee has anyone come quite so close to writing a female character so extremely different to the unending slew of bland ‘final girls’, but Richard Bates Jr has definitely managed just that.

Excision is, however, not a perfect film. At times, you’re left wondering just where everything is headed, before its actually pretty inevitable conclusion. Some scenes meander a little and feel like they might be there to shock rather than progress the story and some of the characters, like the little sister, didn’t feel fleshed out enough for my liking. Other characters feel like they’re played too big, but taking into account that the whole thing feels like its taking place in some kind of heightened reality, that’s not necessarily a valid complaint.

The other downside to Excision, and a fairly major one at that, is that it will most likely alienate the majority of viewers. Unless you have a relatively strong stomach and are a fan of brave horror movies that go places you might not necessarily have wanted to go before, then you might be as well to avoid Excision. If, however, you feel like watching a terrifically well made, startlingly well acted, blood fuelled drama about the sort of people we all hope never to meet, then Excision is an absolute must see. Extremely divisive in its nature, watch it if only to be able to talk about it afterwards. It’s one that’ll stay with the viewer afterwards, for good or for bad.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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