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"Excision": Dark Coming-Of-Age Drama

Excision (2012)

The first thing I need to explain about Excision before anything else is the revelation that Traci Lords is (these days at least) an awesome actress. She plays a mother troubled by the future of both her daughters in this dark coming-of-age drama about a disturbed girl.

If you don't know who Traci Lords is, here's the background. Traci Lords began her career in porn. For those of you are into that sort of thing, you are probably not going to get very far with this one. It turns out that she lied about her age and was actually 16 when she got started (though according to wikipedia she claimed that she was 20). As such, all the work she did in porn is now illegal. The authorities got involved around three weeks after her 18th birthday, so there really is absolutely no legal porn from this actress.

The scandal when her age was revealed made her quite a celebrity, so she used this to move into acting. Her 'first mainstream role' was in one of the ultra-low budget flicks produced by Roger Corman: "Not Of This Earth" (1988 version). However, since then she's been nothing if not prolific. However, while she may have been in plenty of films and tv series, I've never really known her to have quite such a major role as she does here in "Excision" before.

Anyway, it turns out she's more than capable of handling a major role. This is far more than just a celebrity cameo. Traci Lords is absolutely perfect in the role here and does a fantastic job.

The main actress in "Excision" however, is playing the role of one of her two daughters. AnnaLynne McCord's previous credits include a major role in the tv series "90210" (I've never really heard of it) and a role as the tall scantily clad badass woman with very few lines in "Transporter 2". She's normally playing quite glamorous figures, so you'd barely recognise her the way she looks in "Excision". Her hair is a mess and her skin has been made up to give her that "difficult stage of puberty" look. She also often looks rather pale and on top of all this her demeanour during the movie significantly serves to lower her sex appeal.

AnnaLynne McCord doesn't look unattractive in "Excision", but there's no trouble imagining her as an unpopular girl in school who might not have boys flocking to ask her out. (Super obvious hint to other filmmakers wishing to emulate this movie's good choices. If you want your female protagonist to seem like she'd be unpopular in school: Don't give her perfect glamour make-up! Duh!)

In her dreams it's another matter however. I had trouble sometimes believing it was the same actress in the dream sequences. The very first dream sequence is right at the start of the movie. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord's character) has a dream involving two versions of herself, both sitting in chairs facing one another. One is convulsing and coughing up blood while the other is experiencing sexual pleasure. All these dreams are erotic dreams and it seems that her character strongly connects blood with sexual desire. Connecting sexual pleasure with blood and possibly death is common to all her dreams.

In this initial dream neither version of her is in fully-sexualised mode, since both have their hair tied back and don't really have the full glamourous make-up. Though both have uncovered legs one of them has her legs awkwardly crossed in pain and discomfort, the other is curling her legs in pleasure. These scenes aren't really appealing to a drooling male audience. The way they combine sexuality with blood is pretty disturbing and it'd be a pretty twisted individual who could ignore that. These sequences are revealing the inner mindset of this confused character who is experiencing some pretty twisted personal desires as she goes through the later stages of puberty.

Pauline is a complete contrast to her sister Grace (played by Ariel Winter), who is not only an extremely sweet little girl, but also seems to have all the feelings young girls are expected to have. She's much more concerned about her appearance, wearing full girly make-up, and she's really looking forward to getting married in the future. Her mother makes no secret that she's the favourite of the two daughters.

Grace is still a misfit in her own way though. She is suffering from cystic fibrosis and it is likely that, very soon, she will need a lung transplant. It's a dangerous procedure and even if successful there's no telling how long she will last after that. Grace seems to be the only person who really gets along with her sister Pauline. The two of them have a strong bond with one another and both are keen to stand up for the other.

Seemingly as part of Pauline's sexual fascination with blood, she also wants to become a surgeon. However, while on the one hand she's obsessed with reading all about surgery, she's not very interested in working hard at school. She's a fascinating character because she is a whole colossal mess of contradictions which somehow manage to make a twisted sort of sense. Another contradiction is that she is an atheist, yet she constantly prays to God for guidance.

Since it's cheaper than a proper psycho-therapist, Pauline's mother takes her for counselling with the local priest, here played by John Waters (clearly playing against type). There are a few other small roles played by well-known actors. Malcolm McDowell plays a teacher and Ray Wise plays the headmaster.

Excision is quite a haunting movie by the end. There's something almost relateable about this confused girl and there are clear comparisons to be made with other stories about a misfit female protagonist: "May", "Stoker" and also to the French film "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" starring Audrey Tautou (which I think is absolutely brilliant and hideously underrated).

The ending of "Excision" is pretty harrowing and I wasn't really sure what to think about it initially, but sometimes the best horror films are those ones that stick with you and haunt you long after you eject the DVD. This isn't traditional horror and you couldn't classify it as a psychological thriller. It's perhaps most similar to the dysfunctional family drama "American Beauty", except with definite twisted horror elements running all the way through it.

"Excision" is unique. A darkly funny yet deeply twisted film with a fantastically compelling lead character. I loved it.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
I saw Traci Lords in Not of this Earth and the Tommyknockers. There was also a John Waters movie but I forgot what it was, and she was in there as well. I've also read her autobiography. I just wish she'd get more roles but it seems as though her porn past shadows her.
May. 19th, 2013 12:19 am (UTC)
I thought ALM did an amazing job in this.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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