I am jumping ahead a few years now in my teen movie exploration, contrary to popular belief I am able to sit down and watch a film made after 2002, and Excision is one of them. Richard Bates Jr's new film TRASH FIRE has landed on Netflix, and boy it's really good. You may remember RBJr from such films as Suburban Gothic and his breakout teen gross-out EXCISION.
Excision is a slow-burning exploration of one teen girl's loose grip on reality, puberty and her broken family. Sound like something you've seen a million times? I guarantee not. The protagonist, Paula (played wonderfully by Annalynne Mccord in an unrecognisable role) takes you on a journey into teenage psyche, only things are a little bit too fucked up in Paula's head to really survive high school and her family who TOTALLY DO NOT GET HER.
If you think of Wetlands (review on the way sometime), this film has a lot in common with it, only it's filtered through a dank basement and repulsion abounds. I think the bravest thing about Excision is that we are never truly meant to like Paula. She has pretty much zero likeable qualities. Sure, you can feel sorry for her, but when you look inside yourself, we all had a Paula at school that we did nothing when they were getting bullied, or laughed at their weirdness. It's so easy to put the blame onto Paula herself, because she doesn't help her situation by being so awkward, but really we should be paying attention when a person is screaming to get the proper help they need. This film is not just an exploration into her life, but into our past experiences too. It gives you a lot to think about - where is that girl that always smelt like old tampons I sat next to in Religious Education? Did she ever make it out of high school alive? I can't even remember her name to look her up on Facebook.
So, I find it pretty brave to have a film centred around a teen girl who isn't attractive and eager to please and does everything on her own terms. Could Paula actually be the role model we deserve? I mean, obviously not, but yes, maybe????
If you're a fan of the macabre, the marrying of horror and religion, then this film is right up your street. The action is inter-spliced with Paula's chats with God, where she begs for her mother's death and her sister's survival. Beautiful John Waters plays Paula's priest to perfection, their quiet conversations revealing her failing psyche to a church that don't care, as long as she is a good girl.
We're often cut to Paula's dream sequences, brightly lit, polished, tanned and lithe bodies playing in blood, playing abortion, playing doctors and nurses. It's a testament to RBJr's eye for direction that he can breezily switch between the mundane suburban existence to these cold, tiled fantasies. The film is a visual feat in so many ways, but it is the dream sequences that elevate it into the sublime art.
If you're not yet sold on this film (which has obviously disappeared from UK Netflix as Trash Fire enters) then the cast may sway you. Joining Mccord and Waters is the always incredible Traci Lords, taking on her first role as a Good Christian Mother. Traci carries this film with the complex themes of how to love your daughter, whilst not particularly liking the person they have turned into. So many of her scenes are infuriating, because it's so realistic. If you've ever had a rocky teen relationship with your own mother, the times she tries to get Paula to open up to her are excruciating. It's hard to say who the real villain of the film is, but I'd say Lords has a good chance of being it.
Watch Excision to celebrate your feminine repulsion, watch it to feel sorry for outcasts, watch it to be thankful your home life was never this bad. Whatever you take away from it, just watch Excision.
Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.
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