When it came out last year, Excision, by first-time director Richard Bates, Jr., became one of those movies you heard about. Many people compared it to Lucky McKee’s genre fave May (2002) — and why not? They’re both about socially awkward, outcast girls that have an unconventional way of connecting to people — both culminating in some gory results. But here’s the difference… While Angela Bettis’s May is sick and twisted in her own right, she is still extremely empathetic and heartbreaking. Whereas, in Excision, Pauline is just pretty sick and twisted.
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is a girl who clearly does not belong in the world in which she lives. I would say she is the product of an overbearing mother — and she is, certainly, to a degree — but there’s something else. There’s just something about her that must be rooted from more than bad parenting. Whatever it is is in her blood, her complete biological make-up — and it makes her say, do and dream in extremely odd, blood-soaked ways.
Her family is fairly normal — for a movie family. There’s the overcritical mother (Traci Lords — yes, that Traci Lords), a cowardly yet amicable father (Roger Bart) and a younger sister, Grace (played by “Modern Family” kid Ariel Winter) who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. Pauline has zero friends, so her school life is torture (as per usual). Bitches will be bitches. But for the most part, Pauline doesn’t appear to be too bothered by said bitches. Hell, she even manages to lose her virginity to a popular guy. And let’s be honest, Pauline can be a bit bitchy, too — right? Albeit, in a good, deserving way.
So, the typical outcast life, yeah? Not so fast. Pauline’s chosen path is to become a surgeon. And that’s where things get a little unnerving. Her day-to-day, real-life activities are filled with school and family pressure; however, her dreams run wild with beautifully designed gore fests — blood, organs, false eyelashes, decapitated heads — all laced with extreme sexual overtones. Real life and fantasy begin to co-mingle — and the weird becomes weirder.
The cast is great. AnnaLynne McCord plays Pauline with perfection. Instead of being the beautiful rich bitch (cough, cough, “90210”), she physically morphs into this odd creature. Complete with greasy hair and acne, McCord creates cinematic alchemy when she furrows her brow, lowers her vocal register and spews profanity.
I am a fan of Traci Lords and I have to say I’ve never seen her like this before. She’s a mother — an overbearing, pretty broken mother who lashes out at Pauline but also wants to attempt to understand her daughter. It’s interesting and Lords does an amazing job. Other bit parts include Malcolm McDowell as a high school teacher; Ray Wise as the school’s principal; and my personal favorite, king of trash, John Waters, as a PRIEST who tries to counsel Pauline.
Excision is a concise and creepy flick that never loses your interest. While Pauline may not be the empathetic character you want her to be — you know, one you can get behind and root for — she’s certainly one from which you can’t look away. Like a gruesome car crash. As a first-time viewer, you are constantly wondering, “how the hell are they going to end this?” I’ve tried to make this spoiler-free, but I will say this — in the end, you get the sense that Pauline’s reality wins over fantasy and it hits her like a punch in the face. The ending is one of those ‘I-wish-they’d-show-the-next-scene’ kind of endings because it leaves you wanting a little more… closure or clarification. Ambiguity can be a good thing, but once the credits began rolling, my stomach tightened up and I didn’t know what to say. For a movie, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I’ve had about 14 hours to digest Excision. But I have a feeling it’ll stay with me for a few days. Maybe more. Probably more.