Cutting satire – Excision review (Sydney Film Festival)

Excision – Starring AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, and Ariel Winter. Directed by Richard Bates Jr. By Simon Miraudo.

Excision played the Sydney Film Festival. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

Richard Bates Jr.‘s Excision is the kind of grotesque, low-budget, oddball fare that only gets its due in film festivals, and/or basements of deliriously deranged teens. I mean that as a compliment. What better venues for a picture about a diabolical high school miscreant and her well-meaning plot to perform surgery on her cystic fibrosis-suffering sister?

AnnaLynne McCord gives a surprisingly layered performance as Pauline, a cold sore-ridden weirdo who just can’t fit in; be it at home with her Christian mother (Traci Lords – yes, that Traci Lords) and beaten down father (Roger Bart), at school with her frustrated teachers and dismissive peers, or even in her own head. In her dreams she’s a blonde, nude, surgical goddess adored by her minions, each one more willing to be subject to her Cronenbergian experimentation than the last. In real life, not so much.

Pauline has two life goals. The first is to lose her virginity, and the second is to provide for her sis Grace (Ariel Winter) a new lung. She goes about both tasks with meticulous planning, a total disregard for acceptable social mores, and a sociopathic sense of entitlement. All the while she prays to God, ensuring that when she apologises for her sins – if she apologises, that is – she’ll be instantly absolved. She really does dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.

Excision is no horror movie, but rather, a blood-strewn black comedy. It’s an uneasy tone to strike, but Bates finds the right balance with his sharp script and just enough underlying tension, aided by the recurring visual flourishes of Pauline’s disturbing dream imagery. It’s a more successful fusion than last year’s The Woman, which was a far more questionable ordeal. The impressive cast helps a lot too; not just McCord (whose turn is funnier, creepier, and more affecting than you would expect to see in a feature like this), but also Lords, Bart, and Winter. When Excision reaches its dark climax, it’s carried by the performances, and not the innate terror of the events. Bates has recruited a host of recognisable faces to remind you that his world is indeed a weird one. Malcolm McDowell plays a teacher, Ray Wise a principal, and John Waters a priest. What a world it is.

3.5/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Excision played the Sydney Film Festival. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

One Response to “Cutting satire – Excision review (Sydney Film Festival)”

  1. Definitely agree with your observations. There’s such a depth to the darkness of this film – I couldn’t help be be impressed. Director, Ricky Bates, indicated the film would have its Australian release in October. There’s no question in my mind that this film will achieve cult status. If macabre is your thing – don’t miss it!

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