The FilmSo far, 2012 has been a wasteland for the horror genre. What with sequels numbers five, four and three for current releases and indie plank impersonator Ethan Hawke being scared by clowns, inspiration and originality have truly been taken out to the woodshed, been told to bend over and been vigorously assaulted by a copy of the yellow pages. Even the following up of recent French horrors has brought much less impressive results in terms of Pascale Laugier's generic Tall Man, Xavier Gens weak The Divide and even Bustillo and Maury's flawed Livide. I have even had my hopes for the infrequent genius of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo dashed by his muddled and limited Intruders.Now I have no idea who Richard Bates Junior is, or indeed Richard Bates senior, yet after watching Excision I want to invite him and his dad in for nice cup of Earl Grey and a sponge finger. He has my sincere and profuse thanks for waking me from my horror slumber and for offering us all something that returns outrage and piercing intellect to the sticky business of scaring people.
Switching between the hallucinatory visions of 18 year old Pauline and her disturbing sad existence, Bates' film seeks to explain a disaffected madness and offer sympathy for his heroine. Believing, despite the absence of any encouragement or evidence to support her, that she will become a great surgeon, Pauline is obsessed with her young sister's illness and becomes convinced that she can resolve the issues of her family life by offering her unproven talents to correct the shortcomings of nature.In her own words, Pauline's mother is a "bitch" - a controlling, self justifying monster who uses her prejudice and religion to keep her household in check. Or not, as in the case of Pauline who refuses the help of the local pastor as a cod psychiatrist, a perfect John Waters cameo, and inflicts a sickening encounter upon a chosen beau, all the while disputing the authority of teachers and parents alike.
So on one level, Excision works as an indie flick about a rebellious childhood before rising to an entirely different one as the delusions of Pauline become real life horror. These hallucinatory sequences are superbly shot and choreographed, but beware they are the stuff of nightmares and will need a strong stomach to endure them. This bloody and controversial edge to the film is most welcome, and the fact that it happily offends conservative forces whilst offering succour to the freaks and the outcasts returns the genre to one of its best characteristics.
Technically this is a very impressive first feature with a passion for elaborate sequences and strong images tempered by a tight grip on the narrative. Similarly the casting is a constant nod to left-field cinema with the likes of Malcolm McDowell, Traci Lords, Ray Wise and John Waters appearing and enjoying their place in a confident assertive début. Despite the flashes of satire, the impressive visuals and the cameos, Excision succeeds because it is not a superficial film. It retains an intelligent depth which embraces Pauline's spirit whilst retaining enough detachment to understand how horrific her eventual act is. This is a film with something to say that says it well and says it proudly. It would be criminal to limit it too much by describing it as body horror or as an extreme rites of passage flick, and for a film which seeks to understand the excluded few it's rather fitting that it defies easy description.
Excision is exceptional.
The DiscThis blu-ray is a BD25 and region B locked with just two extras, a commentary with the Director and his lead actress and a trailer. The menu is very static and functional bearing basic art from the film. The transfer takes up 20.2GB and the trailer is HD.This is a very clean sharp image with the brilliant tableaux of the film given every chance to impress with bold colours, fine contrast and very natural treatment of the edges. A really strong detailed transfer is supplemented by a 5.1 master audio mix with plenty of coverage across the channels and a strong sub-woofer channel to underpin the general eeriness. The lack of subs is disappointing.
The commentary is a proper two hander with Bates talking about the struggle to get his film made, disappearing funding and working with his hero, John Waters. McCord explains how much Bates resisted casting her given her more glamorous appearance and mainstream credentials.