Thursday, February 14, 2013

Excision (2012)

From debutant American director Richard Bates Jr. comes this demented little indie horror-comedy, a macabre bed time story guaranteed to give you a good nightmare!

"Excision"(2012) begins with a rather stomach-churning dream sequence in which Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) has a blood-soaked seizure as she profusely bleeds from various openings in her head and in the end vomits out blood as her doppelganger sits in front of her and appears to have a kind of orgasmic moment! Yes, this is just the beginning of a series of disgusting episodes that are to follow in this strange blend of the harrowing as well as the hilarious!

Pauline is the cliched cinematic representation of a mentally disturbed, socially inept, outcast teenager, a friendless girl labeled a freak! Sure, we’ve seen that kind of a character before haven’t we? What separates "Excision" from other films dealing with this type of persona is the fact that it is only Pauline herself that admits that she has a problem (specifically Borderline Personality Disorder) and begs to be sent to a proper psychiatrist, while neither her domineering mother Phyllis (Traci Lords), nor her clearly weak father Bob (Roger Bart), take her condition seriously. They send her instead, to a church parish Reverend William (John Waters), for some sermons that could probably help her out!

An aspiring surgeon, (or rather, a teen obsessed with performing a surgery of some kind) Pauline faces opposition from her parents, who probably know that she isn’t fit to be a surgeon at all! Only her repressed ambition to become a surgeon and her curiosity about STDs and necrophilia prompt her to make some rather unusual choices concerning loss of virginity and gives her nightmares (dreams?) of performing surgeries and having sex with brutally mangled dead bodies! In the midst of this, there’s her younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter), who is clearly more in control, but suffering from Cystic fibrosis! The desire to make amends and give her life some meaning, along with a heartfelt hope of curing her only sister makes Pauline take drastic steps of shocking proportions in the film’s most terrifying culmination….

"Excision" is a unique genre-bending work which provides the best of many worlds. To start with, it is a disturbing psychodrama about a troubled teen, but one which refrains from turning into a run-of-the-mill teen slasher horror and that’s a welcome relief. It plays out more like a psychological thriller that deals with this girl and how her quashed aspirations of becoming a surgeon manifest in the form of terrible dream sequences and extreme acts bordering on insanity! The film is at times downright repulsive, with its grotesque imagery and moments that make you squirm in your seats! Behold, the awesomely twisted nightmarish visions as seen by Pauline, a product of her obviously deteriorated state of mind, which are sure to please the gore-hounds and lovers of the surreal. And then again, it is also a family drama revolving around the lead character’s dysfunctional family.

Phyllis, the perfectionist mother who is extremely particular about the way things work around the house and about social discipline in general is complemented by the surprisingly quiet, submissive, father who may or may not have sexually abused Pauline in her childhood! Phyllis herself apparently has had a torrid childhood thanks to an extremely difficult mother, and hence wishes that her relationship with her daughters be far from the relationship she shared with her mother. Then there is Grace (Ariel Winter) who clearly cares about her older sister and is protective about her and vice versa. Only despite the seemingly well-intentioned chemistry there is something wrong in the daughters' upbringing, thus rendering their bonding rather half-baked.

Yet the parents always maintain that they only wish the best for their daughters now. There are some emotional one on one moments between family members but not ones that come off as traditionally melodramatic. These are moments laced with sardonic humour, and somewhere you know that the relationships are somehow unhealthy despite the family’s supposed attempts to let sanity prevail!

Richard Bates Jr. strikes a great balance between the darker and the funnier aspects of the film and this is where he succeeds the most! While he presents the more grisly parts of the film with a flavor that is sure to make the most hardened of horror buffs cringe in disgust, he also ensures that there is a genuinely lighter touch to uplift or appease the viewer and bring a smile on his face every once in a while!

There are some savagely comic moments strengthened by splendid performances, especially by Traci Lords who runs away with the best performance of the film. She is brilliant as the controlling mother who does show her soft side from time to time but one that always seems to lack any genuine warmth. This performance is followed by a rather scary looking AnnaLynne McCord's great act of the sociopath teen, further closely followed by Roger Bart who provides his sparse moments of deadpan comic brilliance! The straight-faced comedy works in the film's favor, considering it is primarily a work of psychological horror, yet none of the comic sequences seem misplaced or jarring and in fact make the film much more watchable. Veterans Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise and John Waters appear in brief but fruitful roles in the context of the film and make their mark.

"Excision" brings to mind several older such thrillers based on deranged female leads, especially Lucky McKee's excellent "May" (2002) and on some level, the Australian shocker "The Loved Ones" (2009). Inspirations and similarities apart, "Excision" holds its own as a bloody revolting yet memorable little horror comedy. The screenplay however does take a dip somewhat when it comes to being engaging and seems slightly longer than its 80 minutes length. Moreover, some of the film's best sequences, a couple of dream sequences are cut extremely short and disappear before they make a bigger impact. Despite a few pacing issues, "Excision" is a film that is sure to stick with you for a long long time.  Go ahead and indulge...if you have the stomach for such stuff.

Score: 8/10

1 comment:

  1. this is one of the most disturbing movies i had seen....