Well, things got a little behind the last couple of weeks, what with the holiday film watching and all, the Christmas cinema marathon consisting of the usual yuletide rituals such as Gremlins, Trading Places, Die Hard, Elf, Scrooged, Lethal Weapon, Deep Rising (okay, there’s no way around the fact that that one’s no Christmas movie – but damn, it’s fun), The Long Kiss Goodnight, Elf (again), A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, The Conversation, Tales from the Crypt, and likely a few more I can’t recall. Strangely, Black Christmas was absent this year. Anyway, enough about all the movies I have seen already, and onto something I hadn’t seen yet… A little indie-horror opus that leaked out onto the scene earlier this year, a little something called…
Source: Digital download.
Produced and released by Anchor Bay films, it was the blu-ray artwork that originally caught my eye and snagged my intrigue. I kept the title in mind and found the film online when I got home and gave it a try. An ultra-modern American horror film, this one is about a misfit high school girl who seems to have more gumption than confidence but is able to use that talent to get what she wants, despite her acute disinterest in school, and in fact, in education in general. This counterpoints her passion for becoming a medical surgeon, we all know, as the audience, that you sort of need to go to school for that kind of career projection. Our anti-heroine, Pauline (played perfectly by actress AnnaLynne McCord), is growing up with a loving sister who has cystic fibrosis, a forceful (but not entirely intractable, which makes her not completely off-putting) Catholic mother played by Traci Lords, a likeable if mostly perfunctory dad, and a priest who is acting as her therapist at the request of her mother – a priest played by John Waters. In one of the film’s ultra-modern cinema movements, these cameos and small parts played by ex-exploitation actors are not played for laughs or in-jokes. John Waters and Traci Lords play their parts with verisimilitude and pull them off well. We don’t laugh when we see John Waters as the priest like we did in Blood Feast 2. No, this is the new-new American horror film, the post-French New Wave brand of horror (as in post-Martyrs, post-Inside), that takes the French twist of darkness as hell, placing it all in a gory context within an emotionally decaying lead character. Dark, indeed. But successful? I don’t know. There are some good ideas in this film, but it felt stretched out to me. I was not surprised to find out after-the-fact that this feature film was actually based on the director’s original short film. I’d certainly be interested to see that, I think the problem with non-cinematic horror films in general is that filmmakers are so afraid to make something not feature-length, whether the story warrants it or not. Author Clive Barker said that he feels the most impactful horror happens in the short form, and I tend to agree. If you’re going to make a feature, you’d better make it cinematic. Luckily, Excision boasts some nice cinematography, even if the “normal” scenes were really too light and basic for my personal tastes, there’s no denying that the film is professionally shot. The scenes that are not so normal – the dream/surgery sequences as fantasised by Pauline… well, that’s something, plot-wise, that at least sets this movie slightly apart from the many other American horror films that get released every year. It does have some other things going for it, yet is it worth a watch? For sure. You could spend a worse 81 minutes. But as time goes on I doubt this story would stick around in your mind for very long. At the end of the day, and as much as the filmmakers obviously tried, Excision is just not cinematic enough for its own ambitions.