Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Excision (2012) - A Review

I love a strong independent woman in horror. I’ve contemplated starting a review series based solely on female centric horror films, and may still do it, but Excision would be at the top of the list if I did. This movie created quite the stir last year, and after having seen it a few times, it’s easier to understand why each time you view it. It’s got the complete package: a captivating story, beautiful (and visceral) imagery, a strong lead actress fronting an equally amazing cast and a great ending.

You know what to do, this is the part where you hit that little button down below and check out the review:

(This shouldn’t necessarily need to be stated, but there are some NSFW images contained in this blog post. If you are afraid of nipples, move ahead with caution)

Title: Excision
Director(s): Richard Bates, Jr.
Writer(s): Richard Bates, Jr.
Producer(s): Dylan Hale Lewis
Starring: AnnaLynn McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Gray Gubler, Marlee Matlin, Ray Wise, John Waters

Rotten Tomatoes boasts this one with a proud 81% rating. That’s fuckin’ huge for a horror film. It’s almost hard to even call this a horror film. Yes, it depicts violent imagery; there’s blood a-plenty and very disturbing imagery, but at the same time, it’s almost too beautiful to be placed under that category. I loved this film, I’m sure that’s obvious already, but let’s get on with the plot and I’ll discuss some of the finer points that I really enjoyed about this one.


Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is an interesting girl. She’s slightly disturbed, extremely delusional and she has a certain fascination with blood and the human anatomy. She fantasizes about being a surgeon and having sex while on her menstrual cycle, she performs autopsies on dead animals that she finds on the street and she has conversations with God, despite being an atheist. She’s got a controlling mother (Traci Lords), a sister (Ariel Winter) who seems to be her only friend and a father (Roger Bart) who’s sick of the entire family.
While Pauline may be scarred, delusional and a bit messed up in the head, she is extremely smart and chooses to put her fascinations to good use and help her sister who suffers from cystic fibrosis in her hunt for a new pair of lungs. You can only imagine where the film goes from there.


I hope you don’t mind the trimmed down plot summary, I feel like I’ve needed to cut them down, if you prefer the longer format please let me know and I’ll switch back to the old format.

Now then, Excision. It’s hard to even describe this film, it’s a barrage to the senses but executed in all the right ways. The film is half gritty realism, and half fantastical viscera portrayed in such a beautifully artistic way that (as I mentioned) it’s almost hard to consider it horror. We are constantly transported between the “real world” and “Pauline’s world” where she is either fantasizing of being a beautiful woman bathing in blood, or tearing people apart. Even as I type this, it just doesn’t do it justice.

Let me focus on Pauline for a second, AnnaLynne McCord (Nip/Tuck) was absolutely phenomenal. Another case of “How did they make such a beautiful woman so unattractive?” It’s this aspect that also makes the transitions from “real world” to “Pauline world” that much more vivid and pronounced.

McCord carries this film effortlessly, bringing to life this neurotic, crazy girl and making you sympathize with her even though you know she's about to do somethings you wouldn't consider very nice. She’s not a pleasant person, she’s that kid in the back row of math class that no one wants to be teamed up with, but you sympathize with her. Even though she’s asking for anything but your sympathy, you still sympathize with her.

McCord wasn’t the only highlight in the cast though, we also had Traci Lords playing her bitch of a mother, Roger Bart (Hostel Part II) as her father, Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) as her math teacher and John Waters (THE John Waters) playing, get ready for it, her priest/psychiatrist. Oh, how delightful is this?

While the film is a slow burn, Bates did a fantastic job of keeping your interest by transitioning between “real world” and “Pauline world”. Everything that Pauline does, in either world, is so interesting that you are constantly wondering “what in the hell is she going to do next?”. She’s so strange, but man, do you end up loving it as the movie progresses. She’s not someone you would think that you would like, but in the same way that you find yourself sympathizing in the strangest of ways, you also end up liking her.

Of course, the true highlight of the film is in the final act, as with any other horror film. While you begin to piece together the end of the film as you’re watching, it never really feels like you “predicted it”. This is an aspect of many horror films that can really kill the entire experience, if I feel like the ending was too predictable. You know what Pauline is going to do, it’s no surprise, but the real treat in all of it is in how it was handled. The final scene is beautiful (I’m using that word a lot in this review), it was great. It was art, it was horror, it was uncomfortable and it was perfect. You will be thinking about this film the next day, and maybe the day after that, still processing what you saw the night before.

Let’s get on to the P’s and C’s:

1. The Cinematography.
I’ve already talked about it, but the cinematography in this film is absolutely breathtaking. Bordering on being an art film, we see the two sides of Pauline and they are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. There is dark and there is light, but not the conventional form of dark and light that we would think. I like to think that we are seeing these two worlds through Pauline’s perspective. The real world being the dark, cruel place she chooses to hide from and the light: her sick twisted world that she has created for herself where she is a beautiful woman, with all the blood she could possibly desire. You go from dark imagery, to a world of bright colors and exaggerated circumstances. This was a big aspect of what made me want to see the film so badly to begin with, the photos and trailers were stunning, I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
2. The Cast. While AnnaLynne McCord carried the film on her own two shoulders, the supporting cast was nothing short of great. Traci Lords and Roger Bart’s chemistry was fantastic, and I just loved seeing John Waters play her pious priest. I used to be a huge fan of the show Nip/Tuck, and if any of you have seen that then McCord will be familiar to you as the evil and conniving daughter of Julia McNamara’s new lover. To see her in this type of role showed her chops as an actress, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

1. Pacing.
It’s been tough trying to think of faults that I found with this one, and I mean tough. The worst I could say is that the pacing could have been picked up, slightly. Ever so slightly. I love slowburns, I’m all about them however I know that in today’s day and age most people want the action to be in their faces as quickly as possible. This film is different in that respect, it builds and you gotta build with it.

I’d recommend this one for fans of May, Lucky McKee’s amazing film starring Angela Bettis. I’ll be doing a review of that one soon, simply because I want to watch it again. Loved Excision, I’ve been recommending it to all of my friends, so please, take a peek and let me know what you think.


-Rg Lovecraft

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