Excision (2012)

(On Cable TV, June 2014) Setting the right tone from the start is crucial: So it is that Excision doesn’t waste any time in trying to disturb its viewers: from the opening moments of the film, we’re thrown off by the violent fantasies of an outcast teenager, and the horror seldom stops on the way to a gory conclusion. Shot with unnerving static full-frames of the actors speaking at the camera, Excision never tries to make things comfortable. There may be moments of levity as we spend time with our wise-cracking lead character (her prayers do reveal a sense of humor beyond her behavioral problems), and it’s not as if our heroine considers herself a victim (…which is a real problem by the end), but this is not an easy film to watch, even when its transgressive intentions become clear. The film gets bonus points for casting John Waters as a reverent and Traci Lord as a religious mom, but the star of the show is AnnaLynne McCord, who undergoes a complete transformation (hair, posture, speech, make-up) as “Pauline”, keeping her radiant self for the bloody dream sequences that introduce yet another off-putting element in the mix. The most disturbing element, though, might be how the film sets up Pauline as the typically-likable movie outcast: quirky, interesting, determined, isolated but somehow sympathetic despite clues that not is well… and then truly confirms that she is not even remotely worth cheering for. That may or may not affect viewers, but the real knock against Excision is its lack of sustained plotting: adapted from a short film, it merely seems to expand Pauline’s character study without adding much in way of story. The end, as viscerally shocking as it may seems, can be seen coming from five minutes away and merely plays out the consequences of a Truly Bad Idea. All of the queasy atmosphere, bravura lead performance and disturbing dream sequences may be shocking in the moment, but Excision doesn’t entirely add up to a satisfying whole. There’s definitely a bright future in store for writer/director Richard Bates Jr., but a more sustained script may be helpful in fulfilling the expectations he creates.

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