Friday, December 14, 2012

Excision (2012): AnnaLynne McCord Deserves An Oscar.

It's not that Excision is an Academy Award-caliber film. It's really not. But AnnaLynne McCord (of Nip/Tuck and 90210 fame) puts forth one of the bravest and disturbing performances I've seen in quite some time.

Pauline (McCord) is a socially awkward eighteen year old with some pretty strange fetishes, and not just for someone her age.  She is obsessed with blood and has wild, unrestrained dreams at night about dissecting people, sex with naked corpses, bathing in blood - well, you get the picture.

By day she is a caustic teen with a terrible grudge against her dad (because he gave her herpes by giving her mouth to mouth while saving her as a drowning child - gee, what WILL they think of next?) and an even worse attitude with her mother (played to acerbic perfection by genre fave, Traci Lords).

It must be said, it's really hard to believe that McCord could actually be uglied up so much. I mean, she played a cold-hearted vixen on Nip/Tuck, and it's my understanding she played the same on the new version of 90210. It's almost hard to recognize her here and to be honest, her transformation is just about as impressive as Charlize Theron in Monster. To prove my point, I give you a pic from Excision and a pic of McCord all dolled-up, side by side >>

So anyway, Pauline goes about her daily life, which consists of attempting to find someone to take her virginity while she's having her period, trying to gain her controlling mother's love while at the same time pummeling her with vicious commentary, and dreaming of sexual gratification through the mutilating of human flesh.  This is a girl who pulls out a tampon and studies it fervently, while we watch.  I'm serious.
Yeah, nice girl.  And you thought May had problems...

The one thing Pauline does love is her younger sister Grace, who has cystic fibrosis and is in need of a lung transplant sooner rather than later. This piques Pauline's interest and her desire to become a surgeon no doubt stems from the need to help her sister. However, Pauline doesn't pay attention in class, and becomes violent enough on one occasion that she gets expelled from school - hence ending her surgical aspirations.

Traci Lords is very good as Phyllis, the struggling mother who finally admits that she can't love Pauline.  Try as she might, she just cannot accept her for anything other than the disturbed and potentially sociopathic head-case that she most certainly is.  She doesn't want to give up on her daughter, and attempts to normalize her by having her go to a cotillion (you mean they still have those?) and sending her to counseling with the local minister (a delicious cameo by John Waters!).  But Pauline always finds a way to ruin her mother's bid for structure and balance.
Roger Bart (Hostel 2, The Midnight Meat Train) is equally as commendable as Pauline's herpes-laden pops, Bob. You can tell he wants to help his older daughter but wrestles with conflicting emotions regarding her mental health and ability to actually love.

On the outside, Pauline doesn't even seem to want to fit in, as she behaves unspeakably in nearly every situation. She asks bizarre sexual questions in class, vomits on one of the "popular" girls and shoves another's head into the lockers. She talks to God on a regular basis, but not to pray - instead she tries to justify her wrong-doings and asks for forgiveness in advance of her bad deeds.  At first she seems to not even believe in a higher power, but as time goes by it really seems like deep down she is just trying to get his "okay".
She constantly schemes new ways to be unstable - and this becomes abundantly clear when we see her find a dead bird on the sidewalk, take it home, and proceed to dichotomize it and take out its organs.  You know something bad is imminent at this point.
But as much as Pauline seems like a hard-ass on the surface, deep down I think she just wants to be loved. She unfortunately hears her mother's breakdown and verbal admission that she is unable to love Pauline, and we see that this realization affects her fiercely, perhaps sending her even further down into the rabbit hole.

I'm not sure how much more I can say without spoiling the ending, so I'll just stop the synopsis there. To say this is a strange film would be an understatement. At times a very black comedy, Excision at its core is a story of a very disturbed girl with underlying mental issues brought to the surface by the stressors in her life and the realization that she will never fit in due to her weird fetishes and crazed obsessions.

And when I say AnnaLynne McCord deserves an Oscar, I mean it.  Of course the fact that this film is horror completely omits it from any end-of-year honors - but we don't need high-end prizes in horror - we know what's good when we see it.  And though Excision isn't a thoroughly amazing film - and in fact drags at times...sometimes a film is as good as its talent.  And the talent here shines.


DrunkethWizerd said...

Fuck it, I'm buying this on sight.

Doug Brunell said...

Okay, McCord freaked me out on "Nip/Tuck," and made me very uncomfortable. I've met Lords and she is extremely nice. The subject matter of this is well worth delving into, and your review has made me want to see it. Kudos. Hey, have you read "Nothing Men" yet? I made a trailer (my first one) for it. Enjoy. (You may have to cut and paste.)

Marie said...

Looks suuuuuper good!

Unknown said...

Absolutely agree, McCord's performance is easily one of the best in recent memory.

Doug Brunell said...

Marie, I'm hoping that isn't sarcasm. If not, danke! If it is ... well, danke anyway!

Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for you to review this movie. I saw it for the first time on halloween and McCord left me speechless. I wasn't sure if I was crazy for loving the twisted gore scenes,or sick and demented for seeing beauty in the wild cinematography (probably both). There is nothing else like this in the horror genre to date. Very original.

Christine Hadden said...

Anon: Agreed, this film was very different from anything else I've seen in quite a while. That alone gives it a place in my top ten of 2012...