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November 20, 2012

Excision

(2012, Dir. by Ralph Bates, Jr.)

AnnaLynne McCord is a good-looking 25 year old actress who I'd heard of and seen pictures of, but never really knew why.  The IMDB tells me she was in a refurbished 90210 (obviously, I've never seen that) and had a bit part in Transporter 2 (now you're talkin' Mike's language - but I still don't remember her). Regardless, this is an actress I never gave much of a thought, and I probably couldn't have picked her out of a line of starlets before the night last week when I watched a fresh and bizarre horror film entitled Excision.

And now that I've seen Excision, I feel really comfortable saying that this young actress - the same AnnaLynne McCord I dismissed as a dime-a-dozen blonde starlet blindly - pretty much gives the most brilliantly awkward horror performance since Sissy Spacek showed up in Carrie.

McCord stars as Pauline, an awkward teenager with facial herpes, unkempt hair, and a fetish for blood.  We're not talking a vampiric fetish for blood, we're talking about a sexual fetish for blood. When Pauline sleeps, she's whisked away into a bizarre dreamscape in which she's made up like a diva, surrounded by bizarre creatures, and sated by weird and bloody sexual acts.  In her waking hours, Pauline embraces her desires by planning to become a surgeon and attempting to lose her virginity, and we witness her entire thought process through a series of awkward prayers she sends to a God that she doesn't really believe in.

Pauline's reality is pretty messed up. She lives with her controlling, puritan mother (Traci Lords, cast against reputation) and seemingly neutered father (Roger Bart), while loving her cystic fibrosis laden sister (Ariel Winter), and she pretty much hates her life. Like most teenagers, she also hates school - the place where she is picked on by cool kids and generally accosted by a slew of teachers, including bit performances from well-known folks - Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, and Ray Wise included - who get to flex their comedic skills.  The film is a very dark comedy as it deals with Pauline's life, which helps keep the viewer a little more comfortable with how bizarre her actions and her lust for blood are.

And, thanks to McCord's stunning performance, the bizarre ride through Pauline's mind is a fascinating one. The film shows off plenty of gore in the dream sequences that keep us on our toes, while also managing to gross us out with little interactions between the girl and the real world.  Her quest to lose her virginity ends in a twisted manner that is sure to make viewers squirm, while interactions like the one between her and a dead and bloody bird have to be seen.  The actress dominates the screen, both as a physical presence in the surreal dreams and as an unstable teen in the real world. It's a shockingly brave performance for the actress, as she goes to two extremes for the length of the film without ever relying on the trademark image that got her noticed.  She carries the film in every way.

As for the rest of Excision, it's a film I'm still kind of digesting.  Director Ralph Bates Jr. has created a visceral film with a beautiful representation of chaos that reminded me of films like Ken Russell's Altered States that push the boundaries of perception.  Characters are often framed straight on, the same way Ingmar Bergman may have focused on characters in films like Persona, and there's certainly an artistic vision to this universe as it unfolds around this teenage girl.  Bates is toying with the audience and, again, finding ways to let some dark comedy seep into the otherwise grim storyline.

I'm still not sure Excision entirely works. It's one of those films that makes you say "Ewww, I don't ever want to watch that again" as soon as it ends - but then is stuck in your head for days because you want to make sense of all its oddities.Even though the film is fairly straight forward, I still felt it took a lot of leaps from one point to another, glossing over some relationship details and character development in the name of the bizarre. But, McCord's performance - a truly inspiring case of an actress shaking free from perceptions and making everyone turn their head in awe - is more than enough reason to check out Excision and see the shocking story of Pauline and her family for yourself.

(I can't show you the trailer here, mostly because it has boobs in it (I try my hardest to keep FMWL PG) and partially because I think it kind of sucks. So I'll just link to the trailer on YouTube and let you check it out there if you like.

And I assume you will. After all, I just mentioned boobs in it.)

2 comments:

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

I only know AnnaLynne McCord from Nip/Tuck, where she was this sultry, manipulative sexpot and corrupted everyone around her. I can totally believe her in this kind of role because I knew she had the chops.

This looks right up my alley, actually - I'm definitely going to give it a look. Thanks for the heads up!


(It always amazes me how they can make such beautiful actresses so unattractive for certain roles!)

Planet of Terror said...

You hit the nail on the head Mike. It glosses over details and character development in favor of gore or the 'artsy' scenes that it intersperses throughout. On the whole, while wonderfully acted and shot, the film felt empty. Not sure I understand the amount of praise it's getting as one of the best genre films of the year. Still, you could do a lot worse.