Film Review: Excision
Excision, the debut feature from Richard Bates, Jnr, is a bizarre, bloody high school set horror that combines the troubled teenagers of Heathers with the gruesome body horror of early Cronenberg to give us one of the best, most intriguing horror films of 2012.
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is a disturbed teenager: she’s antisocial, outcast, and subject to disturbingly psychosexual fantasies. When we first meet her in class, she asks the question “Can you catch STDs from having sex with a corpse?” That essentially sets the tone for the rest of the film. At home, she constantly clashes with her religious mother (ex-porn star Traci Lords) while planning to save her cystic fibrosis suffering sister (Ariel Winter). Pauline aspires to be a surgeon, and her dreams are filled with images of blood soaked operations and necrophiliac fantasies. If you’ve seen Ginger Snaps, you get the basic idea of horrific events being metaphors for the traumas of puberty, but Excision seems to set out to be even more extreme than that film (and if you’ve read my review of Ginger Snaps, you’ll know that I love it), and succeeds.
The casting is really top notch for a low budget horror film. Leading actress McCord, a glamorous teen star buried under Monster-levels of prosthetics, is astonishing in an incredibly demanding and unpleasant role. If there’s any justice, she’ll get a lot more work on the back of this; it’s genuinely one of the most underrated performances of 2012. One of the film’s many audacious touches is using controversial ex-porn star Traci Lords to play a devoted Christian, but she really is terrific. Her former career just adds to the jet black comedy on display here.
As a loving wink to the horror fraternity, Excision features some excellent little cameos. Auteur of all things insane John Waters plays a priest/therapist, and reminds us of why everybody loves John Waters, while Malcolm McDowell, still synonymous with Beethoven loving anarchist Alex DeLarge, and Ray Wise, creepy as hell in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, play teachers. It’s great to see a new director who genuinely loves horror as a genre, and has set out to make something original, as opposed to the usual found footage or torture films so often found in cinemas.
Excision reminded me of the first time I saw two modern horror films: The Loved Ones and The Woman. The Loved Ones is a torture film about a demented school girl who kidnaps potential prom dates, and features the same twisted sense of gore and humour as Excision, while The Woman, a family satire about a seedy Dad who takes in a feral woman and keeps her as a pet, uses the same ideas of psychotic killers living in typical suburban cities. Both The Woman and The Loved Ones are utterly demented, and brilliantly out there, and I’m happy to say that Excision is another very good modern horror release. It may be too unpleasant for some tastes, and has the usual flaws, such as a pace that is far too fast, that a lot of first time directors suffer from, but it’s also original, gory and has a genuine love for horror films.
By Harry Ford