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quietearth [Film Festival 01.29.12] horror

Year: 2012
Directors: Richard Bates Jr.
Writers: Richard Bates Jr.
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: kilowog
Rating: 6 out of 10

Add a dash of the surreal world of David Lynch, a pinch of Todd Solondz's exaggerated and broken tales of suburbia and a scoop of Daniel Waters' biting socially commenting dialogue and you have Richard Bates, Jr.'s Excision. Led by an exceedingly brilliant performance by the frequently pedestrian 90210 star, AnnaLynn McCord, Bates' film pushes the envelope of restraint, electing to drift into dark, blood covered territory that would have been better left uncovered and often flailing about in his effort to provide an entertaining and evocative tale of neo-teen comedic angst.

Set in the depths of Smalltown, U.S.A. high schooler Pauline (McCord whose unrecognisable appearance far better resembles that of a caveman) fills her days battling her morally superior mother Phylllis (ironically played by Traci Lords), alienating her vacant father (Roger Bart) and placating her sweetly vicious yet ailing sister ("Modern Family"s, Ariel Winter). One could characterize Pauline (McCord) and her let's give a whole new meaning to 'nuclear family' as functionally dysfunctional at best. Adding pleasure to pain, much like the child who likes to harm small animals, the high schooler desperately and creepily yearns for something greater in life. This 'something' ultimately manifests itself in a desire to explore her growing interest in and unhealthy fascination towards surgery. Talk about your hobbies.

Determined to right her daughter's ship by the power of God, Phyllis begins sending Pauline to a local reverend (John Waters) for weekly sessions. However, religion and therapy are not going to fix a girl so eager to revel in a world of blood that she throws herself at the most popular boy at school in the hope that he will take her virginity while on her period. Her head filled with glamorous fantasies of abortion, decapitation and vivisection, Pauline continues to navigate her days growing ever closer to making her dreams a splendidly harsh reality, even as internal and external pressures mount to block her ascension.

Exactly what Bates' goal in carving out this lusting world of joyful depravity may be, it's never quite reached, though admittedly his knack of ill-humored dialogue and McCord's performance manage to keep us hanging in until the film's awkward, if unsatisfying conclusion. After all, who doesn't want to hear the CW star starkly admit along the way that she needs to take a shit?

As entertaining as Pauline and the perfectly placed cameos by the likes of Waters, Malcolm McDowell as the school principal and Lynch stalwart, Ray Wise, may happen to be, this teen's journey simply isn't one that we're interested in following. Where we may normally see someone in her position pitted against her classmates in a more formal battle of the high school castes, the time spent with Pauline feels far more insincere here as she never makes an effort to help us realize why we are meant to be rooting for her and her ultimately demented quest in the first place. It's only later on and with the smallest of interest that we begin to support her through her sister's battle with cystic fibrosis as it takes a turn, but by this point we've been so put off that it's hard to find a way back.

Beautifully shot and filled with vivid hues and colors, only to be contrasted by muted yet intensely evocative transition scenes where the dull Pauline transforms into a splendid supermodel, Excision is not without its talents and pleasures. It is, however, with a broken story and drained thematic direction that Pauline's interests despairingly never become ours.

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