Pauline (18yo) lives with her family and her younger sister Grace, who has Cystic Fibrosis. Pauline has some delusions of being a great surgeon, and she also has some horrific dreams that she actually finds "stimulating" to say the least. Her family put up with her delusions, and her school classmates find her annoying. But, as this is all happening around her, she has a plan - a plan that will leave them all shocked - and some people may not survive.Written by
Michael Hallows Eve
The nightmarish surrealism which is achieved will resonate for days afterwards.
A paradoxical myriad of influences and styles runs through Excision, the feature debut from NYU graduate Richard Bates Jr. A development of his 18 minute short which played the festival circuit in 2008, the film charts a brief spell in the life of Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), one of the most dysfunctional teenagers to hit the screen since Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995). Far less fetishized than Terry Zwigoff's teenage female outcasts, Pauline is the epitome of awkward. Her gait eschews any form of grace, leaving her a hunched over, lumbering mess. Even keeping her mouth closed appears, at times, to be too much effort. In short, she's the perfect representation of the unfathomable levels of apathy and brooding that exist within the mind of the troubled teen.
McCord, better known to television viewers as the star of shows such as Nip/Tuck and 90210, is almost unrecognisable as the scowling girl with greasy hair and bad skin. It was not, however, an easy part for her to attain. In a recent interview both Bates Jr. and McCord stated that it was a difficult process. From the offset, the director refused to entertain McCord's persistent applications to be associated with the feature. Luckily for us her tenacity paid off and she was granted an audition. Bates' scepticism continued until the young actress showed her commitment to the feature by responding to the statement that she would have to cut her hair for the role by hacking at her locks right there and then. Seeing more of Pauline in the glamorous actress than he could ever have imagined, the partnership was made and the process began.
One of the aforementioned paradoxes within the film is the drafting in of a delightful range of the Hollywood bad boys (and girls); Traci Lords, John Walters, Malcolm McDowell and Ray Wise all appear. All of these characters could have been utilised as the outsiders and freaks of the movie with whom Pauline connects and finds solace, yet in a clever play against type, it is this motley crew who comprise the upstanding, conservative and unprogressive adults in the movie. Lords plays Pauline's God-fearing mother Phyllis with her trademark vigour and wit, clearly loving the experience of taking the moral high ground over the rebellious youth. Waters plays a chaplain and Wise and McDowell both work at the school as headmaster and teacher respectively.
Pauline aspires to one day become a successful surgeon, something which is greatly hindered by her lack of academic capability. Experimenting on roadkill and dreamily pondering over medical textbooks culminates in bizarre fantasies which range from brutal eviscerations to necrophilia.
All of this is heavily coincides with the social dilemmas which she faces on a daily basis (ranging from puberty to friends and relationships). Modern Family's Ariel Winter plays Grace, Pauline's younger sister, who is suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. The strain which her illness puts upon the family often trivialises the nature of Pauline's growing pains. This parallel makes for one of the most interesting aspects of the movie, alluding to the insular and self- absorbed nature of the teen mind.
There is a great deal of dark humour on display in Excision. Humour as pitch black as coal and as sharp as surgical steel. The nightmarish surrealism which is achieved will resonate for days afterwards. A well written and enjoyable debut which manages to balance a sinister side with a tender character study, resulting in an exceptionally strong feature, Excision is well deserving of the praise which it is currently receiving.
Excision is available now through Monster Pictures UK. You can find out more about the movie on the Official Website, Twitter or Facebook.
Colin McCracken writes extensively for zombiehamster.com as well as a number of genre publications. He can be found on Twitter as @zombiehamster
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