Being a teenager sucks.
Sure, for some, it’s a golden time of limitless hope and
possibility; a staging ground for their assault on adulthood, the first steps
on the path to glory.
But for most of us, our teenage years are a painful alcopop,
solvent and snakebite-fuelled odyssey of pain and embarrassment as we stagger
towards the disappointments of maturity; bad skin, spots, cold sores, bulimia,
self-harming, fluctuating weight, body hair, wet dreams, furious masturbation,
lost virginity, ill-judged experimentation with drink, with drugs, with
sexuality, crap poetry, shoe-gazing, the wrong jeans, bad boys and mean girls,
bullying, cliques and inopportune rogue erections during Maths lessons.
Ever since Bill Haley
and J.D. Salinger gave birth to the
teenager, our cinemas have been filled with the growing pains and bittersweet
joys of adolescence. Films as
diverse as Blackboard Jungle, Rebel
Without A Cause, Splendour In The Grass, American Graffiti, The Breakfast Club,
Heathers, Welcome To The Dollhouse and
Donnie Darko have painted the
agonies and ecstasies of teenage life across our movie screens. Lately, our celluloid teenagers have
been rather anodyne, the angry, frustrated heroes and heroines of movies like Over The Edge and Heathers replaced with the bland, all-singing, all-dancing meat
puppets of High School Musical and
the defanged sparkle fairies of Twilight. Thank God then for Excision’s Pauline (90210
vixen AnnaLynne McCord), a teenager
who’s closer to Carrie than Juno.
Perpetually hunched, stoop-shouldered and gawky, skin sallow
and greasy, face peppered with oozing pimples and cold sores, life is hell for
misfit teenager Pauline.
Ostracised at school by both students like the popular Natalie (Molly McCook) and her teachers (Malcolm McDowell and Ray Wise) and alienated from her
parents, God-bothering mother Phyllis (Traci
Lords) and brow-beaten father Bob (Roger
Bart), Pauline is obsessed with death and her own menstrual fluids, enjoys
ultraviolent, gory, erotic dreams of necrophilia and mutilation, aspires to be
a surgeon and is determined to find a way to help her beloved younger sister
Grace (Ariel Winter) who’s battling
cystic fibrosis. It’s little
wonder that her befuddled pastor (John
Waters. Yes, that John Waters. Playing a priest) doesn’t know what to
make of the troubled, abrasive teen.
With her fantasies becoming more vivid, Pauline decides it’s
time to lose her virginity and sets her sights on the most popular boy in
school, Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), much
to the horror of his girlfriend Natalie.
As her behaviour becomes more extreme and her sanity crumbles, Pauline
is expelled from school and decides that only radical medical intervention can
save her ailing sister leading to a devastating, horrific, tragic finale…
Part pitch-black comedy, part sly high school satire, part
gore-splashed body horror, Excision
is a refreshingly bonkers, singularly unique coming-of-age tale charting the
bloody, blossoming sexual awakening of a disturbed misfit. Greasy-haired, spotty and vulnerably
hostile, Pauline is the bullied geek archetype made flesh. Friendless, introverted and deeply
unpleasant, she’s nevertheless a likeable and sympathetic, almost heroic,
anti-heroine. She embraces her
weirdness, refuses to seek the validation of her peers, the approval of her
parents, she stands alone. She’s
smart and funny, she says the things you wish you’d said, does the things you
wish you had the guts to do. She’s
no-one’s victim; her every action a provocative stand against society. She deliberately snogs a horrified
teenage boy with her herpes-infected lips, calculatedly drinks ipecac to force
herself to vomit on a hated classmate.
She takes ownership of her own sexuality and perverse desires, the scene
when she engineers her loss of virginity and forces a boy to go down on her
during her period is both hilarious and nasty.
Boldly shot and stunningly realised with universally
excellent performances across the boards, particularly from Traci Lords as the
homemaking harpy at war with the daughter she loves but is repelled by,
Excision belongs to AnnaLynne McCord.
A lads mag favourite, McCord is unrecognisable as Pauline, delivering a
gutsy, vanity-free, sexy, vulnerable, terrifying performance as the disturbed
teenager coming unglued. She
brings a sympathy and reality to the character that makes her eventual descent
into bloody psychosis all the more tragic.
If David Cronenberg
had made Pretty In Pink after
reading Charlotte Roche’s
squirm-inducing Wetlands, it might
have looked a lot like Excision.
Offbeat, original and demented, you’ve never seen a teen movie like Richard Bates Jr.’s Excision. It’s an edgy, darkly funny, twisted little
fairytale that drips with madness and menstrual blood.