Horror Movies

EXCISION. What a dark and twisted pleasure…

After the screening of the film Excision at the Sundance festival, Chris Bumbray wrote a review that begins with a few words thrown by an anonymous viewer.

Filip Jalowski

24 March 2024

EXCISION. What a dark and twisted pleasure...

His summary is so accurate that I won’t hesitate to steal Bumbray’s idea for the beginning of the text. Excision looks like if David Cronenberg took on the direction of Heathers – a perfect hit, jackpot, a heavy knockout in the first round.

But where do these associations come from? Anyone who remembers Heathers, also remembers Winona Ryder, who in a world resembling a Barbie dollhouse, murdered her perfect friends. Bodies falling among pastel colors and stylized interiors looked almost cute. Heathers, despite its excellent dose of playing with convention, was still quite polite. There’s no more blood there than when you nick yourself shaving. And here comes the space for the second part of the Sundance summary, for David and his body horror. Excision combines the pastel style of Heathers, targets the world of perfect American teenagers dreaming of a prom crown, and collides it with Cronenberg’s fascination with the human body and everything related to it. It’s as sweet as in Heathers and as sharp as in Crash. Excision is a pleasure to watch.

Excision AnnaLynne McCord

Pauline is a seventeen-year-old living in the perfect American cottage. Cream walls, painted fences, neatly trimmed lawns, and other attributes of American suburbs are her everyday bread. However, she is a crack in this space. Perpetually greasy hair, shabby clothes, and a face ravaged by acne make her stand out from dozens of pretty kids. She is also distinguished from the crowd by her unusual passion. Pauline is strongly fascinated by surgery. She is electrified by the sight of blood, intestines, and cut wounds. And it’s not just about visual stimuli. Pauline wants to touch and taste all of it. She wants to be like Cronenberg’s heroes, who put their hand inside a person and get to know them from the inside.

Excision AnnaLynne McCord

Excision is the directorial-screenwriting debut of Richard Bates Jr., and it must be admitted that it is an extraordinarily successful debut. The American has a perfect sense of the convention he’s working in. We don’t just watch a simple caricature of life in the American dream, a silly slasher with elements of gore, or stylized visions that hit you in the trailer of the movie. Bates controls the material and gives Excision a touch of ambivalence. Pauline is suspended somewhere between sociopathy, psychopathy, and shy dreams of fitting into the Barbie world. Bates, on the one hand, provokes with blood and sex, and on the other, with almost paternal tenderness, observes his heroine, thus building quite a neat argumentation for the decisions she makes in her teenage life. Horror, comedy, drama, and a wild visual ride in one package.

Excision AnnaLynne McCord

Excision, however, is not a unique film, an isolated case on the map of contemporary cinema. In recent years, similar tones have been struck by the slightly more comedic All About Evil, telling the story of a librarian who turns into a serial killer and a star of snuff movies. Very similar to Excision is also The Loved Ones, in which we enter the world of a teenage sociopath, her crazy father, and a certain unsuccessful prom. In all these films, one of the main goals of the fun is genre juggling – mixing, in different proportions, horror, comedy, and drama.

Excision AnnaLynne McCord

None of them are ashamed of their sources. In Excision, in supporting roles, we see John Waters and Malcolm McDowell, the man who smuggled B-movies into Hollywood salons, and the face of Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. In All About Evil, Cassandra Peterson appears, known for her monstrous (literally and figuratively) adventures in the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark series. In The Loved Ones, John Brumpton appears in the cast, who has also spilled some screen blood in his career. The motivation of the creators is therefore clear – let’s make a horror movie, but not in the classical sense of the word. Let’s have fun, let’s insert new content, contexts, and genres into it.

Excision AnnaLynne McCord Roger Bart Traci Lords

I believe that this path of horror cinema development is extremely interesting, and I am eagerly awaiting further productions. All the mentioned films provide the viewer with excellent entertainment, which – in the case of Excision – also leaves room for reflection on what has just been watched. So scalpels in hand and in front of the TV!