Every year at Sundance, there’s one movie that makes you go, “What the F*!# was that???” This year is no exception… Excision is definitely that movie. And shocker, I thought it was great. Although, holy hell should the phrase, “NOT FOR EVERYONE” be used in every discussion about this warped, twisted, confusing, entertaining, and wholly original flick. This baby has cult classic written all over it.
A friend of mine labeled this movie as “entertaining but unreleasable.” Well, he may be right by typical standards, but never forget about us twisted souls that enjoy a messed up, “unreleasable” movie. It’s for that reason that I think it is releasable, just in different markets from the multiplex. The multiplex would have to issue record refunds if the general audience had access to this baby, but the art house crowd will eat it up. Excision isn’t an easy movie to describe, but I’ll try to give it the ole heave ho. If I was forced to label it succinctly I’d say, imagine if 80’s David Cronenberg directed Pretty in Pink… but instead of pink, make it red. Blood red. Good lord is there a lot of blood in this movie. But it’s not the gore that makes it disturbing, it’s the protagonist we follow.
Saying Pauline is a weird girl is like saying the surface of the sun is a little warm. Pauline is messed up… and she’s our eyes and ears of this world. She does everything she can to look unappealing. She says anything on her mind to whoever will listen, including asking her sex ed teacher if you can get an STD from having sex with a dead body (and she’s not joking in her enquiry.) She dreams of being a surgeon, sometimes even practicing on the occasional dead animal. Oh, and she has an insane obsession with blood… dreaming about it, toying with it, even tasting it. When we enter her dreams, we enter a stylistic dreamland filled with some of the most twisted sex+gore related sequences you could imagine. These are messed up for sure. But it’s her real-life blood-related curiosities that make for some of the most cringe-inducing scenes. One scene in particular literally had our audience groan louder than anything I’ve heard in a while. I won’t ruin it for you, but wow.
Now, what makes this movie interesting to me is the fact that it seems to follow the John Hughes style of following around the outcast in a high school full of jocks and popular girls. She has a horrific relationship with her overly religious mother. Her father is nothing but a waste of space. Nothing around her seems to fit with her. In movies of this type, she’s the one we root for against the rest of the garbage around her. But as an audience, we’re uncomfortable “rooting” for her because while one second you’re right alongside her in her opinion, the next scene she’s getting off in her dreams hopping on top of a beheaded body and grinding on it. You’re pulled each and every direction, but that’s what so damn awesome. You just feel “off” every step of the way, and honestly have no idea what you’re thinking, let alone what Pauline is.
Now, to go into the rest of the details of this movie would be a travesty, but just know that it has cult classic written all over it. It’s a story of a high school outcast, her thoughts, the people she meets, dealing with her family, and trying to discover herself in the process. But it’s all seen through the eyes of what could almost be described as a sociopath. And hell, of course it has cult classic written all over it when Traci Lords is cast as the overly religious mother; Ray Wise is a strange, overly republican principal; Marlee Matlin, yes, Marlee Matlin, is a counselor at the school; Malcolm McDowell as a math teacher; and freaking John Waters as a PRIEST. All I’d have to say is John Waters is a priest and I think you know exactly the type of material you’re dealing with here. But throw all of that in, and top it off with a final 5 minutes that will have audiences talking, and you’ve got yourself some twisted gold.
At the Q&A, the director stated that John Waters himself told him that, “this is a really weird movie.” Now trust me people, if John Waters says that, you should know what you’re getting yourself mixed up in. But for those of us who hear those words and can’t wipe the smile off our faces, this movie is right down your alley.
Enjoy it, kids. I can’t wait until more people see this and we can all talk about the last 5 minutes… let alone the journey we took to get there.