Excision is definitely one of the weirdest horror movies I’ve seen lately. It is about Pauline, a high school student who is… troubled, to put it mildly. She dreams of becoming a surgeon. She is constantly at odds with her uber-controlling Stepford Wife of a mother who will not stop trying to push Pauline into the mold of a proper young lady. Pauline is repulsed by this, and goes out of her way to remain the tenebrific tomboyish weirdo that she is. Pauline’s struggle to become the woman she wants to be – a real surgeon, above all else – boils to a head at the climax of the film, which I don’t want to breathe a word about. Just trust me when I say it’s intense. Not Martyrs or Inside-level intense (let’s leave the true surgical extremism to the French) but intense nonetheless.
The entire cast of Excision is absolutely killer, and for me, the acting is why this movie is so successful. It’s such a different feel from many horror movies, which live and die on their special effects, plot twists, or gore factors. Excision is a character-driven film that is led by Annalynne McCord, who needs to be lauded for her performance. Google Image “Annalynne McCord.” Now, Google “Annalynne McCord Excision.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. LOOK AT THAT TRANSFORMATION! Like, how is that a thing?! Praise also needs to go to the makeup department for morphing this vixen into a homely, pimple-faced, greasy creep. McCord gives a compelling performance that adds such great dimension to a character that might have been more one-note had she been portrayed by another actress. Other highlights from the cast include Roger Bart (who you might remember as a reluctant maniac from Hostel: Part II) who plays Pauline’s father, a total pushover who is unwilling to stand up to his wife in any way. Pauline’s teacher is played by the incomparable Malcolm McDowell, one of my favorite actors of all time. It seriously made me so happy to see him in such a random, strange little movie. Perfect.
The pacing of this film is great; the growing tension is captured beautifully. The development of Pauline’s psychosis is gradual, but intense (a word I keep finding myself coming back to, which is pretty indicative of the nature of this flick). When we meet Pauline, she is already seriously screwed up. Even though Pauline is an unsettling and disturbed young girl, she is humanized when we see how deeply her mother’s vitriolic words cut her, despite her stoic façade. This is absolutely key when you have a main character that is an ambivalent mix between hero and villain. Pauline is a complex character; she is far from flawless but still relatable. We have to feel for her in order for this movie to work, and McCord’s nuanced performance is the reason why we do feel some small sense of compassion for Pauline.
And I haven’t even mentioned those weird-ass sex dreams! Oh hell, those parts are so weird, albeit gorgeously shot. Pauline fantasizes about bloody surgery/orgy hybrids; she also fantasizes about having sex doused in gallons of blood.
She has a fixation – determination – to lose her virginity while on her period. Shudder. Her sexual awakening is so damn disturbing. God, some of the moments in this film seriously made me gag. Just wait until you see Pauline’s first sexual encounter and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Excision is such a bizarre film. It has moments of highly stylized and sexualized bloodfests sprinkled throughout a carefully paced, deliberate journey into Pauline’s madness. I totally loved it. I don’t know what exactly that says about me as a person, but it’s true – this is a fantastic film. It is creepy as hell, it might make you retch, and you’ll be hooked instantly. Add it to your Netflix queue right this minute!
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