Written by Greg B
Pauline’s got a few problems. First and foremost she is trapped living in a sterile suburb, you know the kind of place where everyone has buzz cut lawns and the kids go door to door collecting donations for the ‘jump rope club’. Pauline’s mother Phyllis (Traci Lords) knows the importance of proper etiquette and scolds her husband for peeing with the seat down and pigging out on chocolate ice cream ‘but its Saturday!’. You can almost imagine her watching Doris Day reruns while doing exercises to get rid of jowls. Furthermore, her physician father (Roger Bart) is wholly ineffectual and simply rolls his eyes and bites his tongue rather than dare incite any confrontation within the pristine household.
But to top it off Pauline’s younger porcelain-skinned sis Grace (Ariel Winter) is slowly succumbing to Cystic Fibrosis, and oh yeah, Pauline isn’t much of a looker (in fact one could go as far as say she resembles a female Vincent Gallo who has indulged in one meth binge too many..)
But it isn’t that Pauline struggles to fit in. Its just that she doesn’t really care. She’s not averse to standing up to the alpha female, peroxide covered popular girls who hang out by the bleechers and busy themselves discussing the sizes of their boyfriends flaccid cocks. However this all seems cute when compared to the bizzare and grotesque places that Pauline’s mind wanders to on a pretty regular basis. When she’s not raising her eyes to heaven, being verbose and giving back talk to adults who just don’t understand, she’s fantasising about fucking corpses and bathing in baths of blood. Pauline is obsessed with anatomy or more precisly different configurations of the flesh (her fantasies feature midgets, body builders, voluptuous women and to be honest I can’t remember if there were also some amputees thrown in there for good measure). She views everything with a cold, clinical detatchment and even whilst in the midst of loosing her virginity to a dozy, slack jawed jock kid she treats the experience like a doctors visit, carefully inspecting the boys member to see if he is big enough to facilitate a king size condom.
But Pauline also realises that the body can be used as weapon, something that she knows she can use against her preppy opressors. Not only does poor Adam (Jeremy Stumper) unwittingly go down on her while she’s on her period, but Pauline gets revenge on a bitchy girl in school by ingesting an emetic in the toilets before blowing chunks all over the repulsed classmates designer clothes.
Although Pauline’s necrophile fantasies would make Jorg Buttgereit blush, they remain inside her cranium and the bulk of the drama within the film arises from the notion of whether or not she will act some of them out.
At points Excision plays like Carrie if it had been directed by Todd Solondz. Pauline’s folks aren’t vile to the core and her and her sister share some genuinly touching moments throughout the narrative which has the effect of warming the audience up to a girl who dreams about putting fetuses in the oven. As Pauline is expelled from school and becomes more and more delusional we wonder will she succumb completely to her little death disco imagination or will Phyllis get her back on track before she starts making midnight trips to the local cemetary (there is a clever touch in the film when Grace’s best friend dies and Pauline looks strangley intrigued, was this the moment she had been waiting for?)
AnnaLynne McCord does a fantastic job at portraying the perpetually mopey Pauline. Although she is obviously slightly unhinged from the very outset of the flick, she is kept from being outright odious, its just that she has the social skills of a shoe. McCord brings a twitchy energy to the role which is an ingenious way of reflecting Pauline’s unpredictable behaviour.
Itay Gross’s slick cinematography looks great and perfectly complements Pauline’s icy analytical demeanor. Instead of the dark, shadow laden lairs of many horror domiciles, Pauline’s house is pristine and brightly lit and I found this to be a refreshing change. It sort of reminded me of Lynch’s white picket fence representation of suburbia in Blue Velvet, where all one has to do is scratch the surface and the mucky fantasies and perversions rush to the fore. Pauline’s fantasy/dream sequences are surreally pretty and play like a Dayglow Kuchar brothers flick with some particularly gooey grand guignol thrown in for good measure. Production Designer Armen Ra also does an amazing job in capturing the ultra conservative, neat and tidy atmosphere of the film’s setting (the school principal even keeps pictures of Reagan and Bush in his office).
There are also some great cameos peppered throughout the film, Ray Wise (I guess that justifies the Lynch connection), Malcolm McDowell and John Waters all make appearances (one can imagine the midnight movie crowd shouting with glee the minute John Waters appears onscreen as a priest cum counsellor who is a little out of his depth trying to deal with the borderline sociopathic Pauline).
The films finale is fairly blunt and somewhat predictable. Coupled with this the final set piece seems to suggest that Phyllis was in the right all along and that all Pauline has to do is simply slap on a plastic smile and try to fit in with the mean girls and everything will be just fine and dandy. If you prefer watching Cannibal Ferox with the lights off, to playing football with the guys, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are any more likely to commit heinous acts and I think that the odd moral message at the end of the film lets the earlier narrative down. However, although the movie is flawed in parts, this is a confident, provocative and highly entertaining debut, proving that Richard Bates Jr. is certainly a young director to keep an eye on.