Thursday, October 16, 2014

Excision (Richard Bates Jr., 2012)

When one of Gerald's friends in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael tells him that he thinks Winona Ryder's Dinky Bossetti is "ugly," I remember saying to myself: You have got to be fucking kidding? Sure, Dinky's hair is an unkempt disaster and her wardrobe looks like something a homeless Goth might wear, but she still looks like Winona Ryder (her skin is like porcelain). This lack of credibility when it came to taking the other character's perception of Dinky seriously didn't exactly ruin the movie for me, but it did irk me to a certain degree. Well, in a recent film called Excision, we're introduced to a character who comes pretty close to embodying the spirit of Dinky Bossetti, The Queen of Teen Angst. Except, instead of obsessing over a woman she thinks is her mother and taking care of  a menagerie of animals (each with a carpet sample to call their own), AnnaLynne McCord's Pauline dreams of performing surgery on her ill sister in her parent's garage, and, not to mention, looks at her bloody tampons with a wide-eyed, weigela-scented sense of wonder.

In the spirit of transparency, I should tell you that I watched Excision, written and directed by Richard Bates Jr., immediately after seeing Ryan Nicholson's Hanger. Why am I telling you this, you ask? It's simple, really. Both films feature characters who like to admire tampons that have been drenched in recently excreted menstrual blood. Talk about your weird coincidences.

Things get even weirder, coincidence-wise, when Excision throws an unorthodox abortion scene at us. If you remember correctly, Hanger boasts a gruesome coat-hanger abortion scene, too. While not as graphic as the scene in Hanger, the Excision abortion scene is nothing to poo-poo about. I think most of you will agree, putting an aborted foetus in a microwave oven (one that appears to have been specifically designed to dispose of unwanted foetal waste) after extracting it with your hand isn't something you see everyday, either.

However, that's where the similarities end. You see, whereas Hanger is a hate-filled, misogynistic slab of putrid bile masquerading as entertainment, Excision has a strong female lead and surreal flights of fancy that are visually interesting.

Oooh, I just remembered, the real reason I brought up Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael. It's true, I already made my point regarding the two films, but I sort of got taken off track by the whole tampon/abortion thing. Anyway, I felt Excision got the look of the teenage outsider right.

Now, I've since discovered that AnnaLynne McCord has been on a lot television shows. But since I've never seen any of them, I approached AnnaLynne McCord as just another actress. Meaning, I didn't spend the bulk of the film thinking: Wow, the chick from 90210 is doing some freaky ass shit in this movie.

You could view this as just another example of an attractive actress "going ugly" for critical accolades. And, after looking at some of the pictures of AnnaLynne McCord outside the Excision universe, I can see how some might take that particular view. But I don't think that's what's going on here, as AnnaLynne McCord seems fully-committed to the role of Pauline, a troubled teen who has a, let's just say, rich and colourful imagination.

The film opens inside the realm of this rich and colourful imagination. In there we see two versions of Pauline facing each other. One is twitching like a Clicker (the nickname given to humans in the third stage of the Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis infection - I despise Clickers, by the way) from The Last of Us, while the other is sitting still. Suddenly, the twitchy Pauline starts bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. When the twitchy Pauline spits blood all over the still Pauline, the real Pauline wakes up.

Whew, for a minute I thought the entire film was going to take place inside this antiseptic nightmarescape. Don't get me wrong, I could have handled it. But, nevertheless, I appreciated the fact that Richard Bates Jr. didn't go overboard when doling out the weirdness.

Besides, there's plenty of weirdness to go around in the real world. I mean, John Waters plays a reverend, Malcolm McDowell plays a math teacher, Ray Wise plays a high school principal, Matthew Gray Gubler plays a sex ed. teacher and best of all, Traci Lords plays Pauline's mother.

After watching Pauline's family, which also includes Bob (Roger Bart), her henpecked father, and Grace (Ariel Winter), her little sister (who has cystic fibrosis), sitting together at the breakfast table for just a few seconds, it's obvious that they're a tad on the dysfunctional side.

Asking her sex ed. teacher if you can contract an STD by having sex with a dead body establishes right away that Pauline ain't hooked up right. I know, the twitchy, blood spewing dream sequence already did a pretty good job of establishing that. But, to be fair, everyone dreams about spastic doppelgängers who vomit blood; it's one of the great things about being human.

While each dream sequence is different, they all pretty much stick with the same theme. And that is: Blood, bandages, bodies and sex. Oh, and did I mention blood?

Approaching Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), who is sitting on the bleachers at school with his friends, Pauline tells the startled teen that she wants to lose her virginity with him. Now, most teenage boys wouldn't hesitate for a second to accept an offer like that. But then again, Pauline isn't your average teenage girl -- At one point she tells her sister, "When I lose my virginity, I want to be on my period." Yum.

In an obvious shout-out to Heathers, we see Pauline and Grace playing crochet on their front lawn. Later that night, guess who calls Pauline? That's right, Adam. It would seem that he's willing to look past her greasy hair, bad posture, acne and unruly eyebrows in order to attain some guilt-free teenage poontang. It's too bad it's soaking in menstrual blood. Don't believe me, take a look in the mirror, the bloodstained fruits of your cunnilingual labour are all over your face.

In an upcoming scene, Pauline will compare Adam's pussy eating technique to a dog drinking water (which, apparently, isn't a good thing - I love the thought of a guy lapping up my labia like a thirsty dog). She also describes Adam's girlfriend's vagina as a "diseased axe wound." Hee. Oh, and when Adam's girlfriend (who, by the way, doesn't know how to spell "cunt") tries to give Pauline a piece of advice, she says, "Make it quick, I gotta go take a shit." Classy.

Even though I didn't approve with a lot of what Pauline gets up to in this film, I couldn't help but sympathize with her outlandish predicament. And that's thanks in part to the amazing performance given by AnnaLynne McCord. The exact same thing can be said for Traci Lords, who kills it as Pauline's overbearing mother. If you're going to see one movie about a surgery-obsessed teen with  fallen arches, make it Excision. It's well-made, darkly funny and is sprinkled with fine performances. Oh, and did I mention blood?

1 comment:

  1. The second half of this film really disappointed me as it suffers from being caught up in the spectacle of it all. It really is the sort of film which seems to really divide folks opinions.

    Still while it might seem like a random series of increasingly disgusting and shocking events, it was a couple of days after seeing the film, that it dawned on me that what we are witnessing here is the birth of a psychopath only shot from the psychopath’s perspective, something only furthered by the slowly graduating between the levels of psycho behaviour, as Pauline moves from morbid fantasies to dissecting dead animals to ultimately moving onto human dissection, all under the guise of her desire to be a surgeon. Further evidence of this theory for myself was seen in her ever growing desire to break social norms, as her world view twists to suit her personal outlook such as her blasé reaction to having her period while clumsily seducing her high school crush Adam with the prospect of easy sex. Sadly director Bates chooses for some reason to not give us a big insight into why Pauline does what she does and instead gives us an ending which seems more sudden than conclusive.