Sunday, March 10, 2013

Excision: Jay's Movie of the Week #10

When the gore flashes in Excision, it's hot burgundy against ice white and neon blue; the high style to which a Lady Gaga video aspires. It's the stunning signature of an accomplished debut by Richard Bates, Jr. Excision is smart, funny, and unforgettable. Teen Pauline's unhappy in her oppressive home life with a controlling mother (Traci Lords), milquetoast father (Peter Bart), and favored, seriously ill sister (Ariel Winter). She's long since resigned herself to not fitting in, and her aspirations of being a surgeon are perhaps a tad unrealistic. In her dreams though, she's a high fashion, perfect empress of a blood-soaked realm of body parts. Pale and oily, pimply with limp hair, only her veneers give her away as the celebrity beauty queen we know. The first half of Excision is her quest to lose her virginity... during her period. Her single minded pursuit of the boy she targets, and her inner life of death and blood, hint at what's to come.

If you've dismissed Annalynne McCord as just another pretty face, she's here to school. I really only knew her from her bold, fun turn on Nip/Tuck. Terrific there, she's brilliant here. Her Pauline is too smart for her own good, and a budding psycho to boot. It's a good part and she runs with it, willing to sacrifice vanity for the opportunity. Her glamorous public image, echoed in the fantasy scenes here. makes for sharp contrast against Pauline's pimply, homely reality. She has no social skills and you almost forget amongst all the gore that she's dryly hilarious.

As Pauline's foil, Traci Lords' Phyllis is shrill and scarily direct. All steel and smoldering dissatisfaction, she can cut everyone down with a look and makes it clear where Pauline got her lack of grace. She pouts and glowers, but also conveys a love for her family along with her drive for perfection. Lords frequently surprises by being better than the material she's given, and has really grown as an actress. If McCord didn't have such a strong turn here, Lords would own this. The rest of the cast clearly showed up to play. Peter Bart and guest stars John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, and Marlee Matlin are all game, even if not given as much to do.

To tell too much is to give the thrills away, though the ending is that rarest of things, a genuine shock. While some of the proceedings are padded, circling the same points; Richard Bates, Jr. is a talent. His first outing rings with echoes of May and Donnie Darko. Excision is a delightful, disgusting triumph. Nauseating, disturbing, memorable; it proves AnnaLynne McCord is a lot more than a pretty face.

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