Let’s play Doctor…
Being a teenager sucks.
Sure, for some, it’s a golden time of limitless hope and possibility; a staging ground for their assault on adulthood, the first steps on the path to glory.
But for most of us, our teenage years are a painful alcopop, solvent and snakebite-fuelled odyssey of pain and embarrassment as we stagger towards the disappointments of maturity; bad skin, spots, cold sores, bulimia, self-harming, fluctuating weight, body hair, wet dreams, furious masturbation, lost virginity, ill-judged experimentation with drink, with drugs, with sexuality, crap poetry, shoe-gazing, the wrong jeans, bad boys and mean girls, bullying, cliques and inopportune rogue erections during Maths lessons.
Ever since Bill Haley and J.D. Salinger gave birth to the teenager, our cinemas have been filled with the growing pains and bittersweet joys of adolescence. Films as diverse as Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without A Cause, Splendour In The Grass, American Graffiti, The Breakfast Club, Heathers, Welcome To The Dollhouse and Donnie Darko have painted the agonies and ecstasies of teenage life across our movie screens. Lately, our celluloid teenagers have been rather anodyne, the angry, frustrated heroes and heroines of movies like Over The Edge and Heathers replaced with the bland, all-singing, all-dancing meat puppets of High School Musical and the defanged sparkle fairies of Twilight. Thank God then for Excision’s Pauline (90210 vixen AnnaLynne McCord), a teenager who’s closer to Carrie than Juno.
Perpetually hunched, stoop-shouldered and gawky, skin sallow and greasy, face peppered with oozing pimples and cold sores, life is hell for misfit teenager Pauline. Ostracised at school by both students like the popular Natalie (Molly McCook) and her teachers (Malcolm McDowell and Ray Wise) and alienated from her parents, God-bothering mother Phyllis (Traci Lords) and brow-beaten father Bob (Roger Bart), Pauline is obsessed with death and her own menstrual fluids, enjoys ultraviolent, gory, erotic dreams of necrophilia and mutilation, aspires to be a surgeon and is determined to find a way to help her beloved younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter) who’s battling cystic fibrosis. It’s little wonder that her befuddled pastor (John Waters. Yes, that John Waters. Playing a priest) doesn’t know what to make of the troubled, abrasive teen.
With her fantasies becoming more vivid, Pauline decides it’s time to lose her virginity and sets her sights on the most popular boy in school, Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), much to the horror of his girlfriend Natalie. As her behaviour becomes more extreme and her sanity crumbles, Pauline is expelled from school and decides that only radical medical intervention can save her ailing sister leading to a devastating, horrific, tragic finale…
Part pitch-black comedy, part sly high school satire, part gore-splashed body horror, Excision is a refreshingly bonkers, singularly unique coming-of-age tale charting the bloody, blossoming sexual awakening of a disturbed misfit. Greasy-haired, spotty and vulnerably hostile, Pauline is the bullied geek archetype made flesh. Friendless, introverted and deeply unpleasant, she’s nevertheless a likeable and sympathetic, almost heroic, anti-heroine. She embraces her weirdness, refuses to seek the validation of her peers, the approval of her parents, she stands alone. She’s smart and funny, she says the things you wish you’d said, does the things you wish you had the guts to do. She’s no-one’s victim; her every action a provocative stand against society. She deliberately snogs a horrified teenage boy with her herpes-infected lips, calculatedly drinks ipecac to force herself to vomit on a hated classmate. She takes ownership of her own sexuality and perverse desires, the scene when she engineers her loss of virginity and forces a boy to go down on her during her period is both hilarious and nasty.
Boldly shot and stunningly realised with universally excellent performances across the boards, particularly from Traci Lords as the homemaking harpy at war with the daughter she loves but is repelled by, Excision belongs to AnnaLynne McCord. A lads mag favourite, McCord is unrecognisable as Pauline, delivering a gutsy, vanity-free, sexy, vulnerable, terrifying performance as the disturbed teenager coming unglued. She brings a sympathy and reality to the character that makes her eventual descent into bloody psychosis all the more tragic
If David Cronenberg had made Pretty In Pink after reading Charlotte Roche’s squirm-inducing Wetlands, it might have looked a lot like Excision. Offbeat, original and demented, you’ve never seen a teen movie like Richard Bates Jr.’s Excision.
AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, John Waters and Malcolm McDowell
1 hour 21 minutes
UK Release Date:
Friday 28th October