Monday, October 22, 2012

Excision (2012) dir Richard Bates, Jr.

Every so often I watch horror movie that actually kinds of weirds/creeps me out and in a good way (e.g. Brett Leonard's Feed and Lucky McKee's The Woman).  Then there are others that weird and creep me out and leave me vaguely disgusted and feeling like I missed the boat because of my gender (Grace and May are prime examples).  Excision falls firmly into this latter category.

Bare bones, it's the story of Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) a highly disturbed young woman (scrofulous private school upperclassman outcast) who comes from an upper middle class Virginian family.  It's a combination [psycho]sexual awakening and descent into madness film that at times is difficult to watch for several reasons.

The primary reason is McCord's portrayal of Pauline reminded me of the feral eponymous woman from McKee's film only with a more sophisticated intellect and Eihi Shiina's Asami Yamazaki in Miike's Audition (1999).  Excision is definitely in the category of ero-guro, which I've become (moderately) less of a fan of over the years.  Pauline is seriously fucking disturbed and despite some mitigating factors which are developed throughout the course of the movie as potential catalysts for her madness I found her to be a fairly unsympathetic character.  If that was the intent of the makers and actress, they certainly succeeded.  I realize that a protagonist does not need to be sympathetic (or even create a sense of empathy) for a film to be "enjoyable".  Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) caused in me a sense of dread and revulsion but I still enjoyed it (though the last time I saw it was when I was into some really bizarre, gruesome, and down right vile movies).

I found myself aligning with the other characters in the movie (casting was really good with cameos from John Waters, Ray Wise, and Malcolm McDowell).  Traci Lords, Roger Bart, and Ariel Winter (as Pauline's mother, father, and sister respectively) turned out some excellent performances - Lords in particular.  At first Lords comes across as a domineering ball buster of a matriarch but while I still didn't like her I found her to be an empathetic character (even though I wouldn't piss on her if she were on fire).

The second reason is, well, Pauline's sexual fantasies are from the internet school of "Things You Can't Unsee".  Not as bad as some of the truly grotesque diseased mind stuff out there but some of the imagery I'm not going to be able to forget easily.  What makes them worse, in a way, is how well shot and sound-mixed they are.  At one point I thought, "Wow, this is really well done.  That is some fucked up shit."

The third is simply Pauline is hard to look at.  In the horror literature class we've been going over works in which the outward appearance of the villain directly correlates to their inward personality.  Standard stuff for horror fans but instead of being a feral woman or deformed hillbilly it's an upper-middle class young woman. Sure, we've seen the geeky outcast who gets picked on because she's not "attractive" cookie cutter Princess girl but Pauline is just kind of nightmarish in her appearance.  She reminded me of some rode hard and put away wet meth-head lot lizard mug shot.  It's kind of brilliant and kudos to McCord for taking the role (I'm unfamiliar with her TV work and don't remember her in movies like The Haunting of Molly Hartley).  I'm interested in what kind of roles she'll take in the future.

My final reason is, well, I find some horror movies with a female protagonist outside my ken.  I love movies which develop a non-traditional character who is far from the hetero-normatives.  However, with Excision (and the aforementioned Grace), there's just something so bizarrely foreign about the protagonist and their motives that I just suffer from a severe disconnect.  This is probably the same factor which didn't let me get through all of Girl Interrupted.  Though Richard Bates, Jr. wrote and directed the movie, I just had a difficult time getting past my gender bias of, "This bitch is fucking crazy and I hope someone puts her in a padded room stat."

I also realize that I've come to dislike (more accurately feel deep discomfort by) movies with extreme examples of mental disturbance.  Not through personal experience per se but because deep psychosis exists in the real world.  There are rare instances of people (regular folks not Charlie Mansons) of having a total break from reality and committing truly heinous acts against other people.  Excision gives the viewer a glimpse inside the head of a person losing their grip.

Despite what may seem like a negative review, Excision  is a well executed horror movie in every respect and I recommend it strongly to fans of Grace, ero-guro, and the like.  It's one of those movies I'm glad I watched but won't be watching again (much like Hard Candy or Fruit Chan's Dumplings).

If you're looking for something "fun" for the Halloween season look elsewhere.  I also do not recommend it for a social viewing.    

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