Check out this bright idea of mine: I thought I might clobber the post holiday blues by watching one of the year’s best reviewed horror flicks, EXCISION! Now, I knew perfectly well that it wasn’t a light comedy but I assumed as long as it was well made, it would lift my spirits. That was not the case. There I was skipping down a candy-colored suburbia believing I was safe in some quirky movie zone somewhere between offbeat character studies MAY and WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, when suddenly I noticed the shadow of a wrecking ball circling around me. Egad! That’s not a sweater writer/director RICHARD BATES JR. is knitting me…it’s a noose! I should have gotten a clue from all the blood-soaked dream sequences that pepper the film but since they vaguely resembled music videos by THE FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, I was lulled. Instead of rejuvenation, I was served devastation and when the closing credits mercifully showed up to sweep the aisles in my head, I was left choosing between going to bed and going into the backyard to dig a grave with an accompanying high dive platform on the side.
EXCISION is about a young malcontent named Pauline (ANNALYNNE McCORD) who has delusions of becoming a surgeon. She’s fascinated by the human body but doesn’t comprehend the training and talent required. It’s as if she believes she can just dream herself into being the person she wants to be and who can say they weren’t guilty of that as a teen (or older)? Pauline is genuinely difficult and wonderfully aggressive and she’s a welcome break from the usual demure hair-twirling wallflower/outsider. It’s hard not to be compassionate towards her when she overhears her own mother admitting that she finds her “impossible to love” but mom’s got a point too, her kid acts like a hallucination from MARTYRS. The one relationship that appears to be Pauline’s most likely bridge towards connecting with humanity is the one she shares with her loyal younger sister Grace who has cystic fibrosis. It becomes clearer that Pauline’s tortured behavior is strongly connected to her difficulty in processing her sister’s illness and the idea that the one person who doesn’t scorn her may not be around for long. Her attempt at rectifying the situation is a thing of pure horror.
I’m always going to have a soft spot for challenging protagonists, so this movie worked for me. I wouldn’t recommend it though for anyone who was not in the mood for being deeply disturbed. In any case, one thing that’s indisputable is the stellar work from the cast. First off, McCORD is fantastic as Pauline. If I were more familiar with her previous roles, I’m sure I’d be in even more awe of her transformation but as it stands I’m seriously impressed. There are wonderful turns too by highly watchable folks like JOHN WATERS, RAY WISE, MARLEE MATLIN, MALCOLM McDOWELL & ROGER BART. Now, see how much space I left? That’s because I want plenty of room to gush about TRACI LORDS as mother Phyllis. LORDS is truly outstanding in this movie. I don’t mean good for TRACI LORDS, I mean she could stand right next to the very best in her field here. What could have so easily have been the standard ice queen role, LORDS lifts to another realm, displaying a multitude of levels you might not expect. She killed me and I have to say, “Bravo.” Now, EXCISION, here is your “Good Job!” sticker, thank you very much, kindly get out of my head!