Disturbingly shocking, appallingly upsetting and gruesomely wince-inducing, 'Excision' tells the demented tale of Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), a maladjusted and socially awkward teen girl suffering from delusions of grandeur. Her parents, played to perfection by Traci Lords and Roger Bart, can't afford a real psychiatrist, so they do the next best thing. They take her to see John Waters in a minor role as an uneasy, often offended minister. Such scenes and conversations are intentional in-jokes balancing the repulsive gore with a dark quirky sense of humor. Ray Wise of 'Twin Peaks' and Malcolm McDowell also make appearances as adults disgusted by the girl's ungainly behavior. If she can sicken even these men, then there's something seriously defective about Pauline.
Going by her looks alone, Pauline couldn't care less of what others think of her. Her hair is a tangled, frumpy, oily and possibly even grimy mess. Woolly, unkempt eyebrows make her look like a cavewoman while her face shows pimple damage and a cold sore on her lower lip. Her brazen, straightforward remarks are off-putting but hilarious, such as when she candidly asks a boy to take her virginity. Her mother's prissy and moralistic pressures have no effect on her and only seem to make matters worse. However, some cruel comments from the popular girl at school about her body shape make her consider umbilicoplasty, plastic surgery of the navel. It's an odd part of the body to feel self-conscious about but not any weirder than her wanting to perform the procedure on herself.
This is where things become really twisted and perverse, where some viewer's tolerance for the grisly and repulsive will be challenged. And it grows progressively (and methodically) worse until the horrifying and utterly dismaying conclusion. Pauline's grandiose delusions revolve around her dream of someday becoming a surgeon — hence, the film's unique title — and her wish is to one day cure her younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter), the only person who shows Pauline affectionate kindness, of cystic fibrosis. Pauline reads with genuine interest and the passion of a brilliant mind about the condition and a variety of surgical procedures. She dissects and experiments with a dead pigeon, examines her own blood while in the middle of science class and skips school just to visit the library for more medical books.
It's a chilling portrait of a passionate but terrifyingly troubled teen capable of dreadful things, a child practically screaming at the top of her lungs for psychological help. The performance is all the more shocking considering McCord is one of the stunning beauties from 'Nip/Tuck' and the new '90210' series. Here, she does a complete 180 playing the antithesis of her usual vixen bombshells, allowing herself to be made believably ugly beyond recognition. And we're not talking stereotypical Hollywood unattractive where the potential to be gorgeous is obvious. McCord goes full tilt unappealing and is practically an eyesore, giving herself completely and convincingly to the role of a disturbed girl. Going against her customary portrayals, McCord not only reveals herself as a wealth of talent but also wins the respect of an audience unfamiliar with her and gains a larger body of admirers, including myself.
From Richard Bates, Jr, making his feature-length debut, 'Excision' enters the mind of a demented, mentally-ill sociopath, and it's one hell of disturbing experience. Bates proves himself an excellent talent in the visual department, more so than in the writing, particularly when granting audiences access into Pauline's blood-drenched, atrocious and outrageously offensive fantasies of necrophilia and surgery. There's no commentary or observation being made; it's just a string of fantastical imagery and stunning photography, sucking viewers into the character's deranged worldview until the abysmal conclusion steals your breath away. Not since Lucky McKee's wonderfully perverse 'May' has a psychological horror film been so captivating and riveting. If you can stomach the visuals and are a fan of body horror, 'Excision' is one you must absolutely watch.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment brings 'Excision' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside a blue, eco-vortex keepcase. After several skippable trailers, the main menu appears with full-motion clips and music.
'Excision' debuts to Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that delivers even more shocks to the gory visuals and endless buckets of blood. With pitch-perfect contrast levels and dazzling whites, the freshly-minted transfer comes with exceptional clarity of the tiniest details inside the family home and around the school. From the leaves on trees and the perfectly-manicured lawn to individual hairs and fabrics, fine lines are razor-sharp while the threading and grime on Pauline's clothes are crystal clear.
Flesh tones appear natural with lifelike texture that exposes pores and intentional blemishes. The color palette is bold and animated with lush, vivid greens and brilliant blues. Reds, in particular, have a strikingly realistic luster that fills the screen with intensity and disgust. Blacks are opulent and luxurious with excellent shadow detailing, providing the image with an appreciable three-dimensional quality.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack may not be quite as impressive as the video, but it does a grand job nonetheless and complements the story splendidly.
Considering this is a character-driven film, the lossless mix is a front-heavy affair with superb channel separation. Imaging is wide and spacious with a great deal of warmth and fidelity, generating a stable sense of presence. Cars pan across the screen flawlessly, teenage chatter is displayed off-screen convincingly, and the barking of neighborhood dogs is plainly heard in the distance. The mid-range isn't pushed very far, if at all, but dynamics are precise and distinct. Low bass is fairly deep and strong when given the chance, and dialogue reproduction is outstanding, delivering every one of Pauline's weird, offbeat comments excellent clarity. Although the design doesn't come with lots of activity, back speakers are occasionally employed for minor discrete effects and for lightly enhancing the unusual musical score.
From first-time writer and director Richard Bates, Jr, 'Excision' is the disturbing and often appalling tale of a teen girl with deranged delusions of grandeur. Aside from an amazing performance by AnnaLynne McCord, the film features an array of grisly and stunning imagery of gory horror that slowly develops to a shocking, speechless conclusion. The Blu-ray arrives with exceptional picture quality and an excellent audio presentation, but supplements are terribly wanting. Still, for fans of the kind of psychological horror that leaves viewers stunned after watching it, 'Excision' offers one of the most unique viewing experiences in years.