Excision Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Excision Blu-Ray

Starring AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, Malcolm McDowell, John Waters, Marlee Matlin and Matthew Gray Gubler and Ray Wise

Written and Directed by Richard Bates Jr.

SPOILERS

New on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment comes the bizarre medical based thriller, Excision. On the surface the film shares a lot of similarities with the body modification horror film from the Soska Sisters, ‘American Mary’, but upon closer examination the two are very different. The Soska’s Mary is an overachieving and talented student while McCord’s Pauline is the ultimate slacker. So how does Excision stack up?

Pauline (McCord) is an 18 year old failing student with aspirations of a career in medicine. She fantasizes and is sexually stimulated by visions of performing surgery on her classmates and herself. Pauline’s younger sister, Grace (Winter), has cystic fibrosis and is the main concern of their parents (Lords and Bart). Pauline decides she wants to lose her virginity to one of the popular boys in school named Adam (Sumpter), and surprisingly Adam obliges. After the non-subtle Pauline causes the break-up of Adam and his girlfriend, Adam’s now ex and her friends vandalize Pauline’s family home. Pauline goes on an angry tirade at school, pushes Adam to the ground and slams his ex-girlfriend’s face into her locker which causes her to be outright expelled from school. This seems to set Pauline off the deep end as she decides she must pursue her potentially lethal dreams all the way, leading to a deadly outcome.

Excision is a smartly written and executed film that almost succeeds in delivering the goods. McCord’s performance is solid. She delivers a sullen, remorseless and goofy performance that works for most of the film. Lords and Bart are your typical demonized parental unit, they both still perform admirably with what they are given, though the dialogue given to Lords especially helps to lessen the cardboard cut-out feeling of the performance. The rest of the cast is really not given a lot to do here as the film rests mainly on the shoulders of McCord.  Most of the dialogue here strikes like a cross between Diablo Cody and Noah Baumbach, which is great in parts and a hindrance in others. Unlike ‘Mary’, where the surgical references and scenes are well researched and feel completely authentic, Excision is more concerned with shock and awe tactics and couldn’t care less about authenticity. The production is slick and the film looks great. Many of Pauline’s fantasy sequences are gory delights that will satisfy most genre fans. The biggest issue of the film is the end. In a either love it or hate it moment things go ridiculously wrong and even though she has been fantasizing about certain things throughout, you never quite get to the point where you believe that Pauline will go as far as she does. So because of this the end feels a bit forced and out of character.

The Blu-Ray is a bare bones disc without any special features attached, except for an audio commentary track with the director and star McCord, but the transfer looks and sounds great as the film’s colors are vibrant and loud. Sadly they have chosen a Blu-Ray cover shot that is less impactful when compared to the gorgeous theatrical poster.

Ultimately Excision is a film that toys will greatness throughout, only to be letdown by an ending that the film does not quite earn. That said, there is more than enough here to be able to make Excision a definite rental recommendation and a decent buy.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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TIFF 2012 – Antiviral Review (Dustin SanVido)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Antiviral (2012)

Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Douglas Smith, and Malcolm McDowell

Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg

MINOR SPOILERS

Brandon Cronenberg gathered attention for his short film Broken Tulips, which screened at TIFF in the Emerging Artists program a few years back and was successful enough to gain funding and expand the premise into his debut feature. Being his father’s son may have had something to do with it, but to be fair that connection is what interested me enough to add Antiviral to my slate. As a debut film, I found its satire of celebrity obsession interesting, its performances tight and focused, and its Trent Reznor inspired score entertaining. That being said, there are issues in the script and the pacing lags a bit, but Antiviral remains an interesting debut.

Antiviral is the story of a near future in which the obsession of celebrity has reached such a level that obsessive fans are able to share a disturbing biological communion with their idols by commercially purchasing and injecting themselves with viruses and illnesses the celebrities have contracted, sometimes intentionally. Our protagonist Syd (Caleb Landry Jones) works for one of these viral clinics, and is regarded as one of the better sales agents, as we are shown in one of his sales pitches in the opening moments of the film. Sid also is in the business for himself – he quietly smuggles out samples of the viruses he offers the only way he knows how, by injecting the viruses into his own body and extracting them later to sell on the black market. This does come with some inherent risk as Syd is constantly sick and monitoring his temperature at all times and for good reason. Shortly after we are introduced to Syd, he is asked to step in for an employee and collect the latest virus from a willing starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). The extraction is successful and seeing an opportunity, Syd injects a pure blood sample into his body before turning over the rest to his employer. Within hours Syd begins to fall seriously ill and learns that the virus he injected could be fatal. He spends the rest of the film learning of the nature of the virus, its connection to the companies he is employed by, and the conspiracy that he has inadvertently found himself the centre of.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Antiviral is a strong debut feature that benefits from an excellent concept and some fantastic sequences of body horror. The director has stated publicly that he has never seen or been interested in his father’s work, but his film seems to indicate otherwise, as it seems like ideas were directly lifted from the elder Cronenberg’s earlier films. The moments of gore aren’t very gratuitous or terrifying and there is a very subtle art-house beauty present in the design of the practical effects. The idea of the melding of technology and flesh is just as present in Antiviral as it is in Videodrome or Dead Ringers or even Naked Lunch. That being said, Cronenberg does have his own ideas and vision and I laud him for making the film his way. This is very obvious in his decision to shoot the film nearly entirely in front of white backgrounds and images to focus and keep the viewer’s attention on the actors and the effects

I enjoyed all the performances in Antiviral, particularly Caleb Landry Jones. Jones is choosing a variety of work to challenge his skillset and clearly understands his limits and what works for him. I have seen two films with him this year and it appears as though the actor is working to strengthen his weaknesses. The supporting cast is all up to task and don’t seem to be reaching or overacting, including a surprise cameo that strengthened the needed exposition at the halfway point of the film.

Although the film’s plot and intricacies are completely ludicrous at times, its ideas and the satire on display is spot on with the present day and time. I enjoyed Antiviral wholly because of its introduction of a director who, just like his father, has an original voice. I am looking very forward to seeing what he can present to an audience outside of the body horror sub-genre. I think it’s safe to say that Brandon Cronenberg is a Canadian talent to look out for and Antiviral is a good place to start.

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