Sunday, October 21, 2012
We've seen a lot of movies about ticking timebomb psychos, where you slowly watch the character unravel until they finally snap, and something awful happens. Excision is proudly in this tradition, but I'm not sure we've ever seen a character like Pauline before. She's not some picked-on, lonely nerd striving for attention who gets the Carrie White treatment. Instead, she's incredibly self-possessed and domineering, forcing her weird personality on everyone else. And if they don't like it, that's their fucking problem. She's bold enough to proposition the high school hunk for sex despite the fact that he has a girlfriend, and then get him to go down on her without warning him she's on her period (it's a turn on for her).
Excision is a wicked dark comedy that slowly turns horrific and tragic. It's buoyed by a great cast (most of them ringers only showing up for a scene or two) that includes Roger Bart, John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin and Rise Wise. But the movie lives or dies on the lead performance by AnnaLynne McCord, and it's a stunner. Now, for comparison, this is what Pauline looks like (shown here checking out her bloody tampon), and this is what McCord looks like in real life. Normally I'm not crazy about this kind of stunt, taking a pretty Hollywood starlet and uglying her up instead of casting a more normal looking actress. But McCord is so perfect in the role it doesn't matter; she makes Pauline so peculiar and particular, unpleasant yet real and even occasionally sympathetic. Plus, McCord is kinda fearless in just how little vanity she brings to the role, not afraid to take Pauline to dark and nasty places that would probably scare a lot of other actresses her age off. And casting a hottie in the role actually has a practical purpose, too: in her fucked-up dreams, Pauline sees herself as gorgeous and highly styled, sort of a weird mix of Lady Gaga and Ed Gein.
The other central performance here is by Traci Lords, ironically cast as Pauline's uptight, conservative mother. Their relationship is the centerpiece of the film, as Pauline resents her mother and Lords tries to deal with the fact that not only is Pauline not going to be the perfect daughter she dreamed of, but that her behavior is growing increasingly bizarre. It's a performance that, like the film itself, starts off as parody before developing into something more surprising.