What starts out as an alternately eerie and cartoonish look at teenage Suburban Hell eventually morphs into full-blown body horror in “Excision,” a devilishly entertaining horror movie that nevertheless fails to really utilize it supporting cast. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord,) a misfit aspiring surgeon with a number of unnerving sexual fantasies, lives with her passive, well-meaning father (Roger Bart,) Her smothering religious-fanatic mother (Traci Lords, yes, THAT Traci Lords,) and her sweet terminally ill sister Grace (Ariel Winter of “Modern Family,”) a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer with a heart of gold.
Pauline is a total outcast at school, partially because she is gawky and homely, and due in a large part to the fact that she is aggressively off-putting and creepy, intentionally vomiting on others and dissecting dead animals. She’s not understood, but the brilliance of geniuses rarely is in their own time. Is Pauline a genius? Not really, but you’d rather she attempt surgery on you than, say, Martin of “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence.)”
“Excision” is a little bit Lucky McKee’s “May,” a little bit Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” a little bit Tom Six’s “…Pede” movies but enough originality to stand on it’s own merit. It has a lot of famous faces and cult actors, including ‘king of filth’ John Waters as a priest (!), Malcolm McDowell as a teacher unsympathetic to Pauline’s deranged antics, and Marlee Matlin as a member of school staff. The movie works because it is over-the-top but remains just believable enough to suspend disbelief. The characters tend to be a little one-dimensional but still find ways to surprise you.
The gore element is mostly thrown at you at the end but also is utilized through Pauline’s bloody fetishistic dreams, which awaken forbidden desires within her. “Excision” is a bit of slow burner which becomes increasingly better after you get accustomed to the tone, which is relentlessly odd but consistent. There’s a gallows humor that made me chuckle throughout. The acting is competent (even from former porn star Traci Lords!) and each player portrays their characters well.
I was wary about watching this because so much indie horror is total shite (“Escape From Tomorrow,” particularly, was a recent disappointment) but I found myself pleasantly surprised at this quirky little horror picture, which refused to take itself too seriously while not stooping to gory slapstick or ridiculousness. I found myself having mixed feelings about the character of Pauline. She’s a total deviant and oddball, but sometimes she does something, or says something in one of her confessions to God that makes you like her- just a little bit, and just for a little while. For those with strong stomachs and open minds, I recommend “Excision” as a surprisingly good horror debut.