Pauline is an odd girl. She’s caught in the maelstrom of adolescence and hormones, and manages to redefine the phrase “awkward teen”. The most obvious starting point are her constant sexual fantasies involving blood – it’s not so much that she’s turned on by it, but that she’s entirely fascinated with the human body and all its viscera.
At school she is an outsider. In a sex-ed class, she asks, with genuine curiosity, if it’s possible to contract an STI from having sex with a dead person, unaware of the oddity of her question. At home, she’s constantly under the thumb of her stern mother who can’t handle her strangeness, and whose attention is mainly focussed on Pauline’s younger sister Grace, who struggles with Cystic Fibrosis.
As Pauline makes her way through the days, she finds herself not only battling the oddities of her fascinations, and the awkwardness of being a teenager, but also the increasingly strained relationship with her mother.
That might not sound like much of plot, but it’s a hard movie to describe without giving away the details. It’s constantly being referred to as a horror movie, but that’s wrong – what it is, is a black comedy that happens to have a lot of blood in it.
Pauline’s fantasies are twisted and a bit disturbing, what with combining sexual awakening with fantasies of gore, but it’s done in a way that’s an almost literal interpretation of the word “bloodlust” – again, hard to describe, save for seeing the movie.
Excision is a twisted film that seems to be the lovechild of Davids Cronenberg and Lynch, with a bit of Todd Solondz thrown in for good measure. It’s strange, and it’s very funny, but it’s also going to make a lot of people sick to their stomach; Pauline herself is also such a strange character that that alone might put some people off.
AnnaLynne McCord is captivating as Pauline. She’s in almost every scene of the film, the movie is hers to carry, and she does so completely unafraid to let her be as strange and repulsive as the character needs to be.
Traci Lords is also great as Pauline’s mother, never letting the character slip into overplayed caricature once, which would have been easy to do.
The rest of the performances are also fine – though casting John Waters as a priest is spectacularly blasphemous – but the film really centres on those two women. The director of photography also clearly had a field day with this one, and Pauline’s fantasies are a hyper-stylised visual treat of colour and framing.
If there’s a downside, it’s that the movie all seems to fall apart at the end – what the story builds to makes sense, but it seems a bit like an option that was settled on, rather than arrived at during the writing process.
It’s certainly not a film for everyone, but it’s something different – if you like off-beat movies, give this a watch, even if it’s outside your comfort zone.