Her Pauline is an 18-year-old high school senior with caked hair, unkempt eyebrows and a zit-ravaged complexion. Needless to say, she’s the opposite of popular, but harbors strange desires and experiences wild, clinical, bloody nightmares that David Cronenberg might classify as “a good sleep.”
Where this goes is not immediately spelled out for viewers, adding to their unease. I fell wholly for writer/director’s Richard Bates Jr.’s spell of a cracked American suburbia, in which a picture-perfect home houses ills in one form or another. Pauline has a younger sister (Ariel Winter, TV’s Modern Family) who suffers from none of her sibling’s lack of social graces, but instead is saddled with cystic fibrosis. Their mild-mannered father (Roger Bart, Hostel: Part II) is forever henpecked by their icy-to-the-touch mother, played to delicious perfection by Traci Lords (Not of This Earth).
As much as this film loves to bathe in blood — sometimes literally — Excision is not without sharp humor, however dark. It all adds to a disturbing but pleasurable experience one won’t soon forget, because one won’t want to. I wish the Blu-ray had included Bates’ 18-minute short of the same name from which this feature was expanded, strictly for the sake of comparison and morbid curiosity. Alas, the disc is featureless, but the movie is so good, I can’t knock it for that. —Rod Lott