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Excision – 7

Director – 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

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Horror films centering around teen angst interest me because most of us who are not teenagers anymore can relate to the conflicts felt by the protagonist. Excision plays on high school culture and the societal norms forced on young girls, but it takes things up a notch; or should I say, several notches. AnnaLynne McCord stars as Pauline, an 18 year old with more siblings than friends, and she only has one sibling. Pauline is weird, ugly, and has a face adorned with acne and cold sores, but her worst trait is not one others can see. Dead-set on becoming a surgeon despite her failing grades and poor study habits, Pauline’s vivid and maniacal fantasies build and build inside of her until she finds the perfect opportunity to act on them.

I can say right off the bat that I have not seen a horror film like this in quite some time. Lately I have stayed away from slow burning experiences and instead focused on more fun and adventurous flicks, so it was great to delve into this again but at the same time I am reminded of why I strayed from these films in the first place – unless you have really good direction, they are pretty boring. Excision comes in auteur fashion, written and directed by Richard Bates Jr., who first broke onto the scene in 2008 with his short film of the same name that eventually spawned this full-length piece. The film begins by giving us a full-frontal view of what life is like for Pauline. The pretty girls hound her, the guys stay as far away from her as possible, her mother is an overbearing bitch, her father loves her but gave her a strain of herpes when he gave her CPR following a childhood drowning incident, and her sister has a worsening case of Cystic Fibrosis. Oh, and she has horrific dreams of performing gory and sensual surgeries. The extreme majority of the film plays on Pauline’s conflicts and her slight struggle with being accepted. She does not care in the least bit for her cohorts, but she at times wants to experience what they experience, like sex and friendship. Despite the trouble that she is and the trouble she creates she carries a creepy sense of innocence and naivety, which comes to light more and more as the story progresses. Her parents are unable to produce the funds for professional psychiatric treatment, so they instead rely on the priest of their church to counsel her, who just so happened to be portrayed by filmmaker John Waters – the most awesome in a list of cameo roles that includes Malcolm McDowell and Ray Wise.

So how is the horror in this piece? Well, it is there but at the same time it is not. Up until the end sequence the only horror we see comes via the vivid dreams Pauline has, written and executed in a melancholy fashion. The subject matter of the dreams is sensual, gory, and horrific, which to me makes for good horror. My only gripe is that these were the only moments of horror until the final scene that ends in very shocking fashion. Had the remainder of the film given us some tangible horror I would feel differently, but while dreams can be very scary Pauline’s were not. Simply put, this flick is 80% drama and 20% horror.

Richard Bates Jr. did well in keeping my interest in this slow-movie piece. He perfectly executes the world Pauline lives in, from her taunting classmates to her quirky family lead by her overbearing mother, and the horror as well. Her fantasy scenes were vidid, visceral, and came with lots of live-action gore to give us a decent amount of horror to suffice until the horrific climax. The beautiful AnnaLynne McCord donned cosmetic FX on her face to make her appear ugly and neanderthal-esque, and she portrayed this “seriously effed up girl” very well. Her mannerisms were dead on and her facial expressions were that of a girl you never want to be alone with over fear for your life. Overall I was happy with Bates Jr.’s execution and felt that he did well in directing the necessary elements that make for a good horror film.

Overall, Excision is a positive horror film that may turn off some viewers due to the little horror it provides until its satisfying climax. This is not a film I would recommend to everyone, especially those seeking a “fun” / exciting experience, but for those of you who want something different this might be for you.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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