Monday, December 31, 2012

Film review: Excision

I'm not sure how to begin speaking about EXCISION, except to say that I can't remember the last time I was this touched and impressed by a horror film. "Touching" is not a word one can often use when it comes to this genre, which isn't to say that we don't connect to the characters in these films. We often do, at least if they're written, developed and portrayed well. This film is different than the usual fare, though.

EXCISION is about eighteen year old Pauline, who is a total outcast and outsider, misunderstood by everyone she meets including her parents. The one person who seems to accept her, whether she understands her or not, is her sister Grace. Pauline is a very disturbed girl however, with perverse fantasies involving surgical procedures, blood and even necrophilia. She has delusions about being a great surgeon, but has little interest in school and no understanding of what surgical medicine actually requires. But she believes she can somehow accomplish this goal, most importantly to save her sister who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

It could have been so easy for this film to become an exercise in exploitation, for it to become cliched, disgusting or campy. What astonishes me is how perfectly it was written and acted. The filmmakers and the actors must have cared deeply for this story and these characters. As strange as Pauline is, she is still a realistic teenager we are meant to empathize with, acting out, rebelling against her overbearing mother, exploring her sexuality, maneuvering through the confusing world of high school as best as she can. She isn't portrayed as someone to be feared, rejected or hated. Her fantasies and behavior are bizarre and disturbing, yet one feels sympathy and compassion instead of disgust. Her relationship with her sister is sweet and loving, and even though their relationship to their parents is fairly typical, they also have a complexity and depth that make them feel so authentic.

The path Pauline ultimately ends up treading towards to the end of the movie is heartbreaking, once you realize where it's leading. It's like watching someone you care about leap in front of train in slow motion, and being too frozen to do anything. There's no monster, no evil, no bad guy in this film. It's not so simple as that. It's part of what makes it so good, because the true horror is complex, emotional and messy. It isn't black and white, slasher and survivor, monster and damsel, etc.

I can't say enough about how amazing EXCISION is. It's gory without going too far and churning your stomach, the story and characters are deep, complex and authentic. It has a great cast including some nice cameos from John Waters, Malcolm McDowell and Ray Wise. AnnaLynne McCord does a fantastic job as Pauline. The film is emotionally compelling with the right amount of humor added in, the music used perfectly compliments the story, and Pauline's very surreal dream sequences aside, it feels so oddly real even once things really go to hell. Highest recommendations.

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