Review by Christopher Maynard.
Directed By Richard Bates Jr
Starring AnnaLynne McCord, Richard Bart, Ariel Winter, Traci Lords, Malcolm McDowell and John Waters
An awkward but intelligent teenage girl (McCord) obsessed with blood, surgery and losing her virginity struggles to save her sister. I guess that sums up Richard Bates Jr.’s 2012 horror/comedy/mindfuck of a movie, but trust me when I say that it is far more than that brief summary.
Excision has brilliant performances and style for any film maker, let alone a first time director. There are images in this film that will stay with me for years to come. Bates takes shocking subject matter and photographs it like a sunset or a spotted owl; the grotesque is treated with reverence and awe. While that approach might have some people immediately crying torture porn or blood porn or perhaps some other buzzword that’s used in lieu of actual critical analysis, they would be flat out wrong. It’s that approach that allows the viewer into the mind of our protagonist. At first these glimpses into Pauline’s mind are played for comedic effect but as the film plays out we become more aware of how deeply troubled our teenage lead truly is. This film feels very deliberate and controlled. The pacing and mood shifts are all dealt with precision and care. Early on it becomes clear that we are in the hands of a storyteller who wants us to experience something unique. This is not a film that has style simply for the sake of having style. While the film is beautifully shot the look is always in service of the story.
The tone of this film shifts from fairly light to completely nuts. The tonal shift is gradual and while we are given hints throughout the film of how screwed up Pauline might be, like the people in her life, we, the viewers of this film overlook her behavior and ignore all the warning signs. We are shown what is clearly the behavior of someone in desperate need of psychological treatment and tell ourselves that she is just quirky and we are thereby complicit with her actions. We are held responsible for one of the more troubling endings to a film that I have seen in a long time. This is not an easy film to watch but I’m glad that I have seen it and look forward to revisiting it in the near future.
Bates has a film scheduled for release later this year called Suburban Gothic and I have a feeling he might be a director to keep an eye on.
Excision is available on demand through Showtime and Starz for rental or digital purchase through Amazon, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube and by subscription service through Netflix.
Looks like you might have to rent this one. If you are lucky enough to have a video store nearby chances are it’s a mom and pop operation so do us all a favor and please support them.