Anchor Bay // 2012 // 81 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // October 15th, 2012
Heal the sickness.
Back in the old days of video stores, before IMDb made lists of little known or weird films commonplace, I was on a constant search for the next big thing. The movie with the warning about pregnant women and those with weak stomachs needing to stay away; the one with the declaration of the countries where it's been banned. Nowadays, we can spend five seconds doing an Internet search to find out whether something is worth watching. Information is great and all, but it's kind of too bad that sense of exploration and wonder is gone. Still, if you aren't paying really close attention, you can still be taken by surprise by an unknown movie with an eclectic cast and a bizarre plot description. Excision is just such a movie.
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord, 90210) is a depressed, lonely high schooler with a surgery obsession. Her domineering mother (Traci Lords, Blade) forgets about her for Pauline's little sister, Grace (Ariel Winter, Modern Family), who is dying from cystic fibrosis. Outside, Pauline is a deeply troubled misfit, but inside she is a blood-drenched queen and she feels like, if she can only bring that out, all her problems could be solved.
Excision is a hard movie to pin down. It's bloody and gross enough to qualify as a horror film, but there aren't any scares or thrills. When it goes for laughs, it achieves them fairly handily. When it goes for dramatic effect, the storyline and performances are easily strong enough to handle it. So, what kind of movie is Excision? A very interesting and strange one, that's what kind.
It's far less driven by its plot than by it characters and situations and the fact is that the lynchpin of the story really doesn't even come to light until the final minutes of the film. There are some intimations of what might happen, but I think viewers would have to stretch pretty far in order to guess how Excision would play out. It's a testament to the skill of first time director Richard Bates to keep the film intriguing without ever showing his hand. He achieves this through an impressive visual style and an ability to draw consistently good performances out of a seriously eclectic group of performers.
The biggest surprise comes from McCord, though maybe that's a result of my own ignorance of her. I've never seen anything she's appeared in and, judging from her body of work, I'm not so inclined to catch up. Her work here, however, is absolutely terrific. She is so completely glammed down that, while her picture on the box cover was clearly her, I didn't recognize her at all as Pauline. She's small and slouchy, totally embodying the role of the school's biggest reject. The typical thing would have been for the character to try and do something to fit in, Pauline embraces her misfit state and does all she can to make her classmates miserable.
She gets to vamp it up in her head, though, during dream sequences that remind me of a cross between The Cell and Alejandro Jodorowski's The Holy Mountain. They're cold, antiseptic, bloody, and sexual, reinforcing Pauline's hospital fetish and her mind takes all that a long way. Here, she's huge and glamorous, the queen of her environment. The stark contrast between this and her waking life sells the delusion really well.
Hers isn't the only quality performance, though. With a cast that also includes John Waters (Seed of Chucky), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), and Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), there's plenty to work with here and, while their parts aren't terribly huge, they are all fun additions to the film.
Excision works as a gore-soaked comedy and a coming-of-age drama. While it seems like there might a little too much going on to be effective, the combination works well and, at a mere eighty minutes, it never outstays its welcome. It's consistent fun with a lot of style and a mean, funny spirit that's highly appealing to me and which I'll certainly watch again.
The Blu-ray for Excision comes from Anchor Bay in a solid release. The 2.35:1/1080p transfer is quite good, with no transfer errors to speak of, nicely saturated colors, and deep black levels. There is a good contrast between real life and the dream sequences, with the former having a nice realistic quality and the later almost fantastically garish and bright. The sound is equally as good, with a nice TrueHD surround mix that totally gets the job done. There is good separation in all the channels, with strong clarity in both the music and dialog for an overall strong disc.
The only extra is an audio commentary with Bates and McCord, but it's surprisingly well done. While it's a standard production commentary, they get into a few interesting discussions about blocking, production design, and other very technical details about the film, which is not what I expect from actor commentaries and I was pleasantly surprised.
I didn't know what I expected out of Excision and nor am I sure what I wound up getting, but I know that I am very impressed with the results. The eclectic cast and AnnaLynn McCord's terrific performance are the real selling point of the film, but the excessive blood and strangely dark sense of humor take it over the top. It's not going to be for everybody; it's too strange for that. But its honesty and visual impressiveness make it a bloody piece of solid entertainment that should easily achieve a deserved cult status.
Review content copyright © 2012 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Official Site