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2018 Sundance Film Festival

EXCISION: Sundance’s gross-out spectacular featuring Traci Lords as AnnaLynne McCord's mom

Mock necrophilia. Decapitated talking heads. Makeshift surgeries. Wild, uninhibited sex bathed in menstrual blood. The midnight film EXCISION, making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is without question the most mind-blowingly grotesque film to screen at this year’s fest—so much so that at the press and industry screening I attended, about half the audience walked out in disgust (I can make this assumption since each exit followed a particularly gruesome scene).

Pauline, played by 90210’s AnnaLynne McCord, it not your normal gal. An 18-year-old, Neanderthal-ish high school senior with bushy eyebrows, acne, hunched posture, and plagued by a herpes infection she contracted as a young child from her father performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, she’s an outcast at high school. She also desperately wants to lose her virginity…while she’s having her period.

In order to get away from the drudgery of teen bullying, Pauline escapes deep into her subconscious, where she harbors bizarre fantasies of becoming a surgeon. These fantasies usually involve a glamourized version of herself—the AnnaLynne we’re used to on 90210—writhing on top of cadavers or removing the tongues from people’s heads with surgical prongs.

To make matters worse, her mother Phyllis (Traci Lords), is an anal retentive, hyper-religious disciplinarian who runs all over her spineless husband, Bob (Roger Bart), and forces Pauline to attend dreaded weekly therapy sessions with Rev. William, played—in a hilarious bit of casting—by the great John Waters. Oh, and her cute little sister Grace, played by Ariel Winter, suffers from cystic fibrosis and is in dire need of a lung transplant. Pauline is further tormented by her mathematics teacher (Malcolm McDowell), who annoys her so much that she takes ipecac one day and pukes on the popular girl seated next to her in order to get out of class.

The performances, in particular McCord and Lords, are very convincing, and McCord, who had previously been relegated to a string of foxy heiress-type roles, really impresses with her MONSTER-esque transformation. In some ways, Pauline recalls the nerdy Dawn Weiner in Todd Solondz’s Sundance classic, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE—albeit with more nefarious motives—and the film, which Richard Bates Jr. adapted from his short of the same name, with its eye-catching, blood-splattered dream sequences and story of teenage angst/rebellion, is like a demented cross between WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and HOSTEL.

This critic made the mistake of eating some fajitas right before the screening but managed to brave through the film—unlike the other thirty or so people who walked out at various gory points throughout. Those who sat through the film in its entirety were given a special treat: a black beanie hat with EXCISION inscribed on it, and inside…a blood-splattered tampon in a tube.

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