Tuesday 30 October 2012



The BBFC's content warning for this new American festival of discomfort reads "Contains very strong language, strong gory images, strong sex and nudity": ticking most of the boxes for a fat red 18 except for hard drug use and leering rape scenes. (It's curious, and very British, that the most contentious part of the movie is not the teenage sex or the splatter but the use of the C and F words; by all means be horrible and gory, so long as you don't use naughty words.) Even a slightly absurd streak of black humour doesn't alleviate matters to the point where it could sneak under the 15 barrier. Rather than a horror film, it plays like one of those suburban teenage angst movies (because strictly speaking that's what it is) in which the parents can't understand their kids, the kids hate their parents and everything both parties do simply makes matters worse, but with added confrontational scenes of blood and sex and insanity.

It's now been three days since I saw Excision and I'm still not entirely sure about it beyond the certainty of not loving it and not detesting it. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is a dysfunctional high-schooler with fantasies of becoming a surgeon and curing her little sister of her worsening cystic fibrosis, but Pauline is at that difficult age* of hormones, acne and rebellion, having fetishistic nightmares of blood, bandages and death, and wanting to rid herself of her virginity. Counselling at the local church (from John Waters!) doesn't help, her uberbossy mother (Traci Lords!) doesn't help, insisting on taking her to etiquette and dance classes in the hope of improving herself, while most of the parental concern focuses on poor Grace, who might have to go onto the lung transplant list....

Even though you can figure out the grisly payoff long before it arrives, it still has a substantial kick to it. The bizarre and bloody erotic fantasy/dream sequences are stylish, mostly playing against shiny turquoise bathroom tiles, but they don't really feel like they belong in an irrational-madness-behind-the-smiles-and-picket-fence American teen drama. (Disclaimer: I haven't seen enough Todd Solondz to draw any kind of comparison.) I sort of liked the film and its ability to induce high levels of discomfort and awkwardness: it's unsettling and unnerving, which is down to the performances as much as its willingness to focus on bloody tampons and cold sores. That's not to say I want to see it again, however.

* Is there a non-difficult age?


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