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This film played as part of the 2012 Sydney Film Festival's "Freak Me
Out" section. Director, Richard Bates Jr, set out to make a movie that
he and his friends would have loved to watch in high school. This he's
achieved and so much more.
From the outset, Excision seizes your attention, with its deliciously macabre imagery and malevolent audio track. Unfolding amidst the perfect banality of middle class suburbia, the stage is set for a savage assault on your sensibilities.
Annalynne McCord is fantastic as Pauline - the slouched, ragged, blemished, sociopathic, vexed atheist, sangrephile*, virgin with surgical aspirations and necrophilic fantasies.
In fairness, the entire cast is impressive. You need to keep in mind that this film is the debut feature for a 25 y/o and he claims that persistence worked a charm in signing the talent -- including an Academy Award Winner!
But it's the fantasy sequences that will leave you truly in awe of Excision. Pauline's dreams are tantalisingly lurid, so utterly vile -- yet shot so beautifully. Luminous and vibrant, these scenes impact and leave a stain that won't come out in a cold wash. In fact, at least one person passed out at the screening I attended -- for real.
Far from wallowing in this depravity, Excision succeeds in exploring complex relationships, themes of religious zealotry and how problematic being a self-taught expert can be. All this and a killer soundtrack to boot.
I have to add that I had the extraordinary privilege of enjoying the greatest Q&A session in Sydney Film Festival history! Richard Bates was "slightly intoxicated" and proceeded to share some outrageous stories with us all. It caused a slight scandal, but, given the content of the film we all came to watch, his conduct was completely acceptable. Moreover, it was rare to see a person be so genuine and hysterically funny.
With his next project in the works, Richard Bates Jr just might be a name to keep an eye out for. I mean, if Peter Jackson can start with Bad Taste...I'm just sayin'... ;)
More importantly, for those of you with a taste for twisted film making - Excision is a must see.
*sangrephile - I made this up because I couldn't find a word for someone who loves blood & isn't a vampire!
In Excision, a high school misfit goes to great lengths to win over her
domineering, conservative mother. Although it's presented as a horror
film - and opened the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival -
it's a psychosexual thriller, rife with imagery set against a pastiche
of normative teenage angst and desperation. It is a brilliant,
provocative, unsettling film.
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is the misfit. Scarred with acne and and overall unkempt look and poor posture, she is the poster child for unpopularity. But, like many cinematic rebels before her, she looks upon the idea of being liked almost with disdain. The opinions of others don't influence her.
Pauline aspires to be a doctor, but she is anything but a model student. She challenges her teachers and plays her classmates against each other for her own gain. She has no friends, and her therapy consists of visits to the local priest, whereupon she notes the hypocrisy of his understanding her moral issues when he's by definition pretty repressed himself.
She's part of a nuclear family. Dad Bob (Roger Bart) is a success at something, but he's under the thumb of his controlling wife Phyllis (Traci Lords). Sister Grace is the favorite of the family, partly because she's so nice and good and sweet but also because she is suffering from cystic fibrosis.
Of all the people with whom Pauline interacts on a regular basis, she cares only for Grace. She despairs of her sister's imminent death and wishes the same on her mother. Typical for a teenager, to an extreme perhaps.
Throughout the movie, Pauline sets particular goals for herself and then completes them, in opposition to her attitude toward school and life in general. When her mother forces her to be (at an advanced age) part of a cotillion, Pauline understandably ruins the affair. But when she wants to pursue a career in medicine, she goes to the library (cutting school) and researches her sister's condition.
You may well ask what the title implies. Something is being excised. We've already established that Pauline wants to be a doctor, but what is to be excised is something I cannot reveal here. On a less literal front, Pauline wants to excise her mother's influence from her own life and the pain and suffering from that of her sister.
This is not a movie for the faint of heart. It is not dripping with blood and contains no projectile vomiting, but Pauline's dreams - which include impromptu surgeries that equate to intercourse in her mind - are erotic, disturbing, grisly, and symbolic.
McCord nails the role of Pauline. Dolled up for the cotillion, she looks almost presentable, but even when she's her slovenly self you can see her beauty - eyes, wit, intelligence, smile - even if no one else in the movie can. McCord sells the film by subtly morphing Pauline from an outcast to a sociopath; at first, you take her for just another weird kid in the hall, but over time you see her as clearly losing her grip on reality.
And I didn't think I'd say this, but Lords is really good - in an ironic role - as the pushy, moralizing mom. Traci, you've come a long way, baby.
It's very hard to believe this is writer/director Richard Bates Jr.'s first film, feature or otherwise. The writing is tight, and he gets a lot out of his cast - which includes John Waters and Malcolm McDowell. It's a stunning debut.
I wasn't sure how the movie was going to end, although it was clear I was being led in a particular direction. I wasn't misled, but the conclusion is still a knockout; leaving just enough unresolved to be satisfying.
Excision is thrilling, a movie that will resonate with anyone who's felt unloved and with anyone who likes tales of revenge and redemption. It wisely picks a course and never goes too over the top with its set pieces. It's not a mild-mannered film, but it's also not an overwrought, ham-fisted gorefest. It's cleverly nuanced, achingly acted, and a mind- blowing masterpiece.
What a deserved change from the same old recycled junk out there. Now Im no professional movie critic, and I wouldn't even know what category Id place this movie, but to me it wasn't a horror. Whatever the genre is, Id like to see more like it. McCord did an excellent job and I hope she stays out of the mainstream roles. The cast delivered in a big way and sucked me in to the story. For some reason McCords character makes me think of Napolean Dynamite, but a sick, twisted and female version. I don't want to say much, you can form your own opinion. But it is a solid movie with good acting, great visual dream segments and a decent plot. So check it out if you want to see something weird and different and get some really good laughs along the way.
Not a typical horror or gore movie. Instead, this is a great pleading
for why it is necessary to pay attention to your children, instead of
ignoring the unpleasant things because they don't suit you. It's not
one I would watch again, but it was definitely worth one trip into the
minds of this family, the very kind of family we read about after some
tragedy, and notice everyone says "They were such a good family. They
seemed like such sweet children. Well, the older one was a little odd,
but isn't any awkward girl just a little odd?"
This line is added to convince IMDb's review writing parameters that I have typed enough about this movie to satisfy everyone, including the fact that I was not privileged to see this at any kind of festival and have no obsession with following any particular directors, actors or producers outside of common knowledge.
First I thought this movie would be purely splatter and gore but it turned out to be quite good yet tragic film. AnnaLynne McCord and Traci Lords gave strong performances that really carried the movie, particularly Lords who successfully left the Adult Industry and became a credible actress. I mentioned it was tragic as I really felt for the family struggling with a delusional elder daughter and a dying younger one. Kudos to the makeup artist(s) who worked on McCord making her character (Pauline) look like a really out-of-sorts teenager. There were scenes (in the Unrated version) where a lot of blood was involved coupled with some perverted scenes, but it worked in looking inside the mind of Pauline.
I loved every minute of this blacker than black, bloody, comedy, horror, weirdfest. I'm sure some will be shocked by certain scenes in the movie but they exist in an almost familyguy-esque fun cutaway way where there's little gross out value (well not for me anyway) but......try describing to someone some of the scenes included and see their reaction! On paper they sound quite shocking indeed (I'm not going to spoil them you'll have to see for yourself). Traci Lords (a bit of a strange childhood herself) plays Paulines mother really well as she creeps around uttering whatever thoughts pop into her (spotty) head. Her dreams (day and night) are filled with gallons of blood and bizarreness hard to imagine. I look forward now to recommending this rancidly funny little gem to those of my friends who watch pathetic romcoms or flicks with Adam Sandler in. Something much more strange to me than anything this movie threw up.
Excision is an artistically blood-soaked film that will have you squirm
in your seat one moment and laugh in the next, thanks to its cleverly
dark humor. I've never really seen a film quite like this as it's in
its own league of twisted shenanigans. The most unique character study
AnnaLynne McCord completely disappears into her character and gives an insanely off the wall, brilliant performance that will leave you bug-eyed. She plays Pauline, a disturbed 18-year-old high school student that has a strange fetish for blood. She desperately wants a career in the medical field and goes to the extreme to practice it, as she tries to get approval from her mother. Traci Lords also impressed me as the over controlling mom Phyllis, who tries hard to get through to her unbalanced daughter to no avail. She has a lot of layers to her character as she can be ruthless in one scene and caring in the next, I really felt sorry for her in the end. The rest of the cast was pretty impressive and you might recognize Ariel Winter from Modern Family who plays the younger sister Grace, who is ill with Cystic Fibrosis. The dad, Roger Bart plays Bob, he plays a helpless role of a guy stuck in the middle of the chaos. There are also appearances from John Waters, Malcolm McDowell and Marlee Matlin, which was entertaining to see them in the film.
Director, Richard Bates Jr. makes an explosive début as newcomer of this genre and has a bold eye that's unflinching. The disturbing style, nature mixed with the dark humor, yet at the same time visceral, is just bloody brilliant. He is one to look out for, as this is an insane first effort! Overall, Excision is not a movie for all tastes, but the bluntness, wit, dark humor, unapologetic attitude and blood drenched, stylishly brooding dreamscapes, made it refreshing and daring. The ending was shocking, but I was kind of unsure what to make of it. One of the more memorable horror offerings of 2012.
Overall i thought this film was superb! The acting was outstanding by AnnaLynne Mccord and Traci Lords who made the film well worth a watch. If you like your strange/obscene movies this is one definitely to watch. There are bound to be some negative reviews of this movie but trust me when i say this take no notice. If there is one criticism it would have to be the ending of the movie but i wont go into detail as don't want to spoil it for potential viewers. The director of the movie has made a fantastic movie especially for his debut and this will hopefully not be his only movie, i cant wait for the next movie of his! Overall strange, weird, exciting movie so give it a watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This attempt at a shock and awe film is very disappointing. Character development is feeble, plot and writing is weak at best and the only thing that holds this film together is the actors who I can't believe agreed to do this film. I can picture the table read where they have to convince AnnaLynne McCord to sniff her bloody tampon and have an aborted fetus put in an oven. I give credit to the editor and cinematographer as I feel they did their job well. Richard Bates will not be on the watch list in the future if his vision is this shallow and unimaginative. Sundance won't be in your future again soon. I don't know how this got accepted in the 1st place...but I have seen a lot of other garbage there too. Just because you found some investors does not mean you have a good film. Don't read your friends reviews and think you have a winner on your hands.
"Excision" is a consistently interesting concoction from the mind of
writer / director Richard Bates Jr. Combining straight drama, horror,
and very dark comedy, it's twisted to its core, with a very memorable
character driving the plot forward.
That character is Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord, in an utterly fearless performance), a strange and off putting teenage girl living with a sister (Ariel Winter) who has cystic fibrosis, a reserved father (Roger Bart), and a demanding mother (long ago porn queen Traci Lords, who finally gets a chance to show some real acting chops) whose love Pauline desperately tries to win, while deluding herself into thinking she could have a career in surgery.
Some of the cast members (Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, Matthew Gray Gubler, John Waters (as a reverend!) and especially Oscar winner Marlee Matlin) have what amount to little more than cameo roles, but it's still nice to see all of these familiar faces. Anyway, McCord and Lords do a fine job of carrying the movie, and their scenes are uncomfortable as they're clearly meant to be yet undeniably compelling.
Bates sets his story in a typically placid looking suburbia which serves as an appropriate contrast to the bizarre psycho sexual elements of his plot. He serves up plenty of grotesque, bloody imagery for the horror crowd yet films it all in such a slick way that it's oddly beautiful. He takes full advantage of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in which the movie is shot, considering the way he arranges actors and objects within the frame.
Adventuresome cult movie lovers tired of the soulless quality of bigger budgeted studio based productions should appreciate the daring with which Bates approaches this material. Once it's all over it's the kind of thing you *don't* easily forget; the ending is not that surprising but it's pretty devastating just the same.
Seven out of 10.
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