Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
Pauline is a girl who's struggling through adolescence. She lives with her oppressive, overbearing mother, her useless father and the only family member she truly cares about, her little sister who's afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis. Thing is, Pauline's a bit off..she has vivid visions of horrific surgical/sexual procedures and she's beginning to want to experiment on herself and others.
Is it good movie?
I popped in Excision expecting something along the lines of The Cell in
terms of abstract disgust and insanity. Instead, what I wound up with
was a twisted sort of coming-of-age story that sure didn't pull many
punches. Plus, it's filled with cameos from awesome performers like
Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, John Waters and the great Ray Wise!
It should be noted that if you're looking for a flat out "crazy girl
gets better and begins looking more attractive" sort of story, you
shouldn't boogie with Excision. It's not the kind of story with a path
that winds up with everything rosy and people learning their important
lessons. If you are looking for redemption, you might want to turn away.
Excision is more of a glimpse into someone who's dark and tortured and
more than slightly off their rocker as they begin to take more risks.
An examination of a fractured and broken family that is barely being
held together by an overworked and overprotective meddling Mom (played
by Traci Lords). Dad (an underused but dead-on Roger Bart) is useless,
while Grace (Ariel Winter) is trying to be as "normal" as possible
while growing up with Cystic Fibrosis.
The normally gorgeous Annalynne McCord plays Pauline, our tortured and
twisted soul. This is a brave and fearless performance, though it is
slightly overdone at times, to the point where it can lend the film a
bit of a cartoony feel. Dissheveled and awkward in the real world, a
perverse queen of sorts in her surgical fantasies, this role certainly
required some heavy lifting and for the most part is done well.
Traci Lords also deserves a lot of credit for her admittedly
multifaceted portrayal of Pauline's mother. She can be ungodly
frustrating, selfish and unfair, but at the same time there are moments
where the viewer will unquestionably sympathize with her. At the end of
the day, she really loves her daughter and her good intentions and
genuine care do shine through in her performance.
As for the pacing of the film, it does suffer a bit. The whole thing
does feel a little thin and even at less than 90 minutes, tends to come
off a bit stretched. I didn't find myself getting bored, but the movie
does reach a bit. Let's just say that once you pick up on the direction
the film is trying to take you in, it becomes an almost foregone
conclusion until the end. I also had a few issues with wondering what
kind of tone Excision was trying to present- was it trying to be a dark
comedy, a broad comic-style tale, or a vicious gorefest? Things shift
around a bit and seem slightly unfocused.
With all that being said, I definitely enjoyed Excision and think that
it hit its marks when necessary. The family relationship is a bit
skewed and exaggerated from time to time, but the love between Pauline
and her sister Grace (played by the delightful and talented Ariel
Winter) is real and their relationship interesting. Ariel's suffering
from a likely terminal disease, and Pauline only wants to help. It's
believable and palpable and helps the movie quite a bit.
In terms of the nastiness, there's a fair amount for such a low budget
film. The horror/surgery/sex fantasties Pauline has are loaded with
disgusting imagery and nasty thoughts, and the "real world" has some
pretty gross moments too (let's just say that Pauline wants her first
time to be during a pretty specific time of month). If you're looking
for seas of red, you'll find them here.
Everything leads up to a fever pitch moment with a character or two
going way off the deep end until there's almost no chance to come back.
The film ends during a really tense, feverish and terrifying scene that
bizarrely demonstrates a sense of family and love and I'll say no more
than that. The ending is both chilling and effective, to say the least.
Video / Audio
Video comes in 2:35:1 widescreen and looks
fantastic, with great color, details and an overall excellent
Audio is also excellent,
presented in a TrueHD 5.1 surround
mix. It's clear, well balanced and sounds great.
There's only one extra here and that's a commentary track with director Richard
Bates and Annalynn McCord, and although it won't blow you away,
it's very informative with just about every aspect of the film- it gets
pretty technical. Well done.
In some ways, I was pretty taken aback by Excision and I don't even really know how to describe it. It's a gory, disturbing coming of age drama that I sure won't forget anytime soon. Because it gets so odd and extreme, I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but it's definitely a positive review on my end!