Review: Excision / Cert: 18 / Director: Richard Bates Jr. / Screenplay: Richard Bates Jr. / Starring: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart / UK Release Date: November 2nd
Excision is the latest in the subgenre of films about troubled young women that includes the likes of Carrie, Ginger Snaps, Teeth and May. Richard Bates Jr. makes a strong feature debut that will linger in the memory for a while despite actually lacking a little focus.
AnnaLynne McCord plays Pauline, a troubled, lonely, frumpy teenager who aspires to be a surgeon despite her disproving uptight mother and stricken sister who gets all of the attention. Pauline has horrific/erotic dreams about surgery and mopes about school speaking her mind and upsetting pretty much everyone. Her sister’s illness gets worse and she must get a lung transplant as soon as possible in order to survive, so Pauline hatches a plan.
If you know anything of AnnaLynne McCord’s previous acting career then you will know that this is a truly transformative performance, physically she looks completely different; like a small ball of concentrated rage about to burst. Her dialogue is all delivered with completely natural conviction and she reminds you of that person we all knew in school who was a little ‘off’. The other important performance in this film belongs to Traci Lords, yes that Traci Lords who usually plays a femme fatale or vampire, here plays an uptight housewife and does it perfectly in a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in something like American Beauty. The film makes many satirical stabs at the suburban lifestyle and obsessions of Middle America, raising a chuckle and contrasting nicely with the haunting dream sequences.
The main problem with Excision is that it spends far too much time meandering through suburbia and the various characters living there. Roles for cult luminaries including Ray Wise, Malcolm McDowell and John Waters distract from the core of the film as Pauline mopes about obsessing over her virginity, venereal disease or getting out of an awful cotillion class. As an audience you know that something awful is about to happen but it’s not until the last twenty minutes when it really starts to come into focus and leads to a satisfyingly horrific climax. The second half could have focussed a bit more on the impending horror and the thinking leading to it, and it may have been a minor classic if it were not for the fact that many of the story threads sadly go nowhere.
We’re convinced that Bates Jr. will make a classic somewhere down the line. He has a distinctive voice and just needs to give his future films a little more focus if he is to become a contender. That said, Excision is still an interesting dark comedy that’s well worth your time.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10