Friday, November 02, 2012

Excision and a Bloody, Violent Journey into Womanhood: A Movie Review

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*a DVD screener of this film was provided by Monster Pictures for review.

*there is one spoiler at the very end of this review.

Director/writer: Richard Bates Jr.

Cast: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, Matthew Gray Gubler, Ray Wise, Molly McCook and Bill Oberst Jr.

This writer knows director Richard Bates Jr. from his short film "Excision." This title was one of the best short films this reviewer had the pleasure of seeing in 2009. Now, Bates Jr. has developed this short into a fuller version and this extended feature holds many of the themes and plot points from the original. A young misdirected woman will stop at nothing to save her sister. Focusing on Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), this humourous and horrifying title is a character study of a young woman transitioning into womanhood and into psychopathology. She is strange, weird and completely oblivious to social norms and to the people around her.

Pauline is the quintessential definition of socially awkward. She does not fit in anywhere. Pauline battles with her family while mostly ignoring her peers. This character is unaware of those around her, until she wants something. When she wants to lose her virginity, she asks out the local cool kid, but she does not care for him nor his needs. He is simply a means to a bloody ends. When she wants to save her sister, who is dying of cystic fibrosis, she does what is necessary without empathy. Pauline is like a pointed gun simply waiting to go off.

Part of Pauline's story involves a coming of age drama. This protagonist is transitioning from a girl into a woman in a bizarre fashion. Instead of trying to fit in, she goes in the opposite direction. She cares not about her appearance like the others in her class. However, she does clash with society, including her parents as expected of a teenager. She constantly takes an antagonistic approach with her mother (Traci Lords) and with a local priest (John Waters); she sets her own rules. And, Pauline does eventually find her place in society, but she chooses a bloody path that few will forget.

This central character has many of the hallmarks of a psychopath. She rarely shows empathy for others. She does not care for the man she loses her virginity to, Adam (Jeremy Sumpter). He is simply a mechanical sexual tool, much like a dildo. Pauline is constantly trying to manipulate people. When she wants to get out of a jam, she becomes hostile to whoever stands in her way. A priest is ridiculed to the point where William wants nothing more to do with her. Pauline wins against William. But, she is not always so successful. Pauline does not want to go to a Cotillion (dance) she feigns illness by drinking Ipecac. Her ruse is found out. Yet, Pauline continues to manipulate those around her. And, Pauline is consistently anti-social. She does not want to get along with anyone other than her sister and this also seems strange. She beats up classmates, threatens neighbours or plays with animal entrails. There is no doubt in this viewer's mind that Pauline is very left of center and very disturbed.

Thankfully, there is some humour to light the way in this dark drama. Bates Jr. seems at his best when introducing gross-out humour. Many of the scenes are difficult to watch, but hilarious nonetheless. When Pauline is changing her tampon during a very bloody period, she threatens the audience's calmness by getting close enough to lick the device. This is such a strange scene that it will create laughter for some and disgust for others. Also, Pauline falls asleep in front of the television. She wakes up with a huge dripping of saliva. The laughter keeps rolling. Later, she tries on her sister's oxygen mask and again, there are strings of drool. Scenes like this will leave you shaking your head in shock. But, there is still some good laughter to be had here. The oral sex scene during Pauline's menstrual cycle truly has to be seen by viewers as director Bates Jr. shows his bloody best! All of these scenes create for a duality of tone in this film. It is part drama and part comedy at almost the same time.

Excision is one of the best films that this film fan has seen this year. It is truly entertaining. The acting from McCord is great. She plays against type here and she pulls it off. Beauty does not matter in this piece (at least not to Pauline). The story is great through Acts I and II. But, the final act might be surprising to some. This viewer knew what was coming from a viewing of the short film. Expect to find tragedy here. Also, this film is unsettling and that is part of its purpose. Bates Jr. knows how to keep viewers on their toes and this style of filmmaking is appreciated. Great cinema is not meant to be comfortable. However, some might be turned off by the director's style. This critic loved the film and hopefully, others will find it as comedic and as horrifying as this watcher did.

This title has released in North America as of October 12th and United Kingdom horror fans can get their copies November 12th. This is an excellent film. Horror fans looking for something off of center and out of left field are going to truly enjoy this title. Unpredictable, tragic, very funny and purposeful, Excision is simply a dynamic film that understands coming of age dramas to a tee. Most girls who transition into adulthood experience a bloody journey, but none are as bloody as this one.

Overall: 8.25 out of 10 (great writing, a complex protagonist, lots of conflicts and surprises).

*the ending is so tragic because Phyllis (the mother) has lost two daughters: one to madness and one to the grave.

The film's fan page is here:

Excision on Facebook

A review of Richard Bates Jr.'s short film is here (also short):

Excision (short film) Reviewed on 28DLA

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