Excision – Like John Hughes, but with added blood and sex

Excision has been getting a fair bit of buzz lately, even opening Film4 Fright Fest’s upcoming Halloween all nighter. But, is this just another whiny teenager? Or a genuinely twisted kid, the kid we all like… 

I have an increasingly short tolerance with teen angst movies. The all too familiar genre conventions like first love, rebellion,alienation and conflict with non-understanding but ultimately sympathetic parental figures are just too, well, too damned familiar for a 35 year-old curmudgeon such as myself.

For the record, my facial hair is turning grey, my eyebrows are becoming absurd and what I now laughingly refer to as my hair pattern,is hell bent on outlining the shape of a baboon’s anus on the back of my dome. Life gets even tougher kids. Try that for angst. I’ve got plenty.

Fortunately, Richard Bates Jnr’s debut movie, Excision, mines a far darker vein of American teenage life than the safe adolescent anxieties of your average John Hughes (RIP) Breakfast Club type-picture.

Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is a teenage outcast somewhere in the ultra-conservative, ultra-white, middle class suburbs. But Pauline is no ordinary teenage misfit. No. Pauline has a morbid interest in surgery, she likes dissecting road kill and is prone to occasional, high-resolution, torture porn infused fantasies involving copious blood letting and necrophilia.

By my estimation Pauline is basically a sadistic little pervert, but she is also a compelling, funny and sympathetic female lead (who just happens to be a depraved pervert). That’s not a contradiction readers.

Well it is sort of.

Enter Pauline’s sister and closest friend: Grace (Ariel Winter). She has cystic fibrosis and isn’t long for this Earth. Through a misguided desire to help Grace and no less misguided belief in her own talents for surgery, Pauline hatches a plan to reconcile herself with her estranged mother Phylis (Traci Lords), albeit with suitably apocalyptic consequences.

If you’ve seen Todd Solondz’s Happiness or Welcome to the Dollhouse then the milieu of Excision will be a familiar one. It delivers the same sort of punishing take on suburban dysfunction, sinister human neurosis and psychopathology with blacker than pitch humour.

Casting former teenage porn legend Traci Lords as the domineering, Bible-thumping matriarch is, however, a subversive master stroke. Excision also further underlines its seditious agenda with a cameo from John Waters as William the church counsellor and pillar of the local community.

The closing act of Excision makes for some pretty tough viewing and from the extensive research I conducted online before writing this, seemingly its gruesome nature had some weaker souls cowering beneath their seats at its Sundance film festival premier.

Given that a happy ending is not to be expected (sorry), the climax of Excision still delivers a genuine revelation and arguably lifts the movie above expectations or comparisons with directors of a similar ilk. I’m not (totally) giving the plot away but a scene, which is horrific, really, really horrible in fact, suddenly shifts into a starling moment of emotional acceptance and closure, but to the sounds of full blooded screams.

Excision receives its London preview screenings at Film4 Fright Fest’s Halloween All nighter tour with a theatrical release at the Prince Charles Cinema from October 28th with DVD and Blu-ray releases slated for later in November. I’d recommend that you don’t wait for it to hit the shops but go see it on the big screen if and while you can. I guarantee that Excision will not give you reason to leave the cinema with a smile on your face, but it packs an undeniable punch and ups the ante in a way that Sixteen Candles never did.

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