Today, we are going to explain story of a movie called “Excision.” A comedy, drama, and horror film shot in just 28 days. This first-time director’s debut movie is about a teenager with raging hormones and an obsession with blood, “Excision.”
Dreaming of becoming a surgeon is something truly admirable. A person has to endure unimaginable stress and exhaustion to get that title.
In this film, an aspiring surgeon named Pauline experiences similar stress to that extent even before journeying into higher education. Along with her miserable situation is a brooding obsession with blood.
Before Pauline can start saving people’s lives, she must first save herself. Two women face each other, sitting on stools. One shakes uncontrollably in pain as blood comes rushing out of her holes, while the other shakes uncontrollably in erotic pleasure. Pauline wakes up from her odd dream. Meanwhile, her sick sister, Grace, sits on a rocking chair with tubes connected to treat her cystic fibrosis.
Their parents, Bob and Phyllis, argue about Bob not lifting the toilet lid. While having breakfast, Phyllis asks Pauline to chew with her mouth closed, saying Pauline was raised properly enough not to chew so loud. Phyllis then expresses her favoritism towards Grace. We can see that Pauline is the black sheep of the family.
Phyllis projects onto Pauline her ideas of what a woman should be, and this inadvertently encourages Pauline’s disobedience. While Phyllis thinks that she’s teaching Pauline how to become a woman, she’s actually showing her how not to be a good mother.
Pauline attentively listens in class as they discuss the reproductive system. She raises her hand to ask if it’s possible to contract an S.T.D. from having intercourse with a dead person. Everyone judges her weird thoughts, including the teacher. The teacher ignores her and asks others if they have questions.
At the bleachers, Natalie talks to Abigail about her failed intimate experience with her boyfriend. Pauline sits beside them and eavesdrops. Abigail teases, saying maybe Natalie’s boyfriend is gay.
The boyfriend, Adam, arrives, and Pauline blurts out what Abigail had said and adds that Adam isn’t pretty enough to be a homosexual. Saying Pauline is weird is probably an understatement.
She speaks her mind without consideration of what others think due to the lack of social skills. In addition, how Pauline is at school has a direct correlation to her home life. Because Pauline can’t please her own mother, she doesn’t bother acting any better towards others.
In the car, Phyllis asks Pauline to wear her seatbelt. When she refuses, Phyllis stops the car and refuses to move unless Pauline does so. Phyllis then asks how Pauline’s day at school went, but she further refuses to say anything. Phyllis starts honking the horn and doesn’t stop until Pauline answers.
Pauline soon gives in. From how Phyllis reacted to Pauline’s behavior, we could consider Phyllis as a controlling mother. How she uses her parental authority shows she doesn’t care about Pauline’s opinions.
In turn, Pauline doesn’t care about hers. As much as they’re polar opposites, they’re similar in how they refuse to understand and consider each other’s feelings.
Phyllis and Pauline are on their way to a church to meet the reverend. Pauline prefers to visit a psychiatrist, but Phyllis says it’s too expensive. Again, we can see how Phyllis doesn’t value her daughter’s mental health. There are quite comedic and ironic twists seeing actress Traci Lords’ character being a conservative and religious mother considering her controversial career.
Visit to the Church
At the church, Pauline asks Reverend William about the church’s opinion on organ donations. He says that they believe that man’s body is sacred. As William sees how problematic Pauline is, she promises to make all their future sessions hell on Earth.
Later, Pauline prays. She says she knows she doesn’t believe in God and apologizes for not reading the Bible as it has mixed reviews. Pauline plans to have premarital intercourse and asks for forgiveness in advance, stating that God has to forgive her as long as she apologizes for it.
Religion is a controversial topic and some may disagree, but here, Pauline, and by extension, the film, are calling out religion and the fact that God must forgive a person as long as they repent even if they’ve committed a sin. Pauline has a unique relationship with God.
She treats God with minimal respect, similar to a peer. This could be because Pauline has no peers, and she uses God as a means of expressing her inner thoughts.
The next day, Pauline is the first to finish their exams. The teacher asks if she’s sure with her answers. She confidently states that those math equations don’t have any bearing on her future as a surgeon.
Meanwhile, Phyllis slowly talks to a deaf woman, thinking that she doesn’t understand her. Pauline interrupts the two. Phyllis plans to make her daughter join a cotillion dance class. Pauline disapproves, saying Phyllis is trying to ruin her life. She throws away the flyer and leaves. The deaf woman signs that she’s grateful she can’t hear them.
At the dinner table, Pauline argues that she’s too old for the cotillion class. Phyllis wants Pauline in a cotillion class for her to learn how to act like a proper lady. Grace says she can’t wait to join a cotillion class, and Phyllis smiles. Pauline turns to Bob, who is clearly indifferent. Bob’s response angers Phyllis, and she walks out.
Later that night, Pauline dreams of an autopsied body. She then climbs on top and starts licking it and rubbing herself all over the corpse. She then awakens with shock in her eyes. Phyllis’s unfair parenting, paired with an absentee Bob exacerbates Pauline’s condition. Her own family clearly doesn’t know who she is, and she can’t confide in any of them. It also feels like Pauline is an absolute mystery.
Her dreams come out of nowhere, and they seem to have no meaning and so much meaning at the same time. These occasional slips into her subconscious are pieces to the puzzle of her identity.
At school, Pauline approaches Adam and his friends. She offers a handshake, but Adam refuses to lay a hand on her. Despite this, Pauline asks him to take her virginity. Adam eats his orange, obviously showing his disinterest in Pauline’s offer. She gives him her number, and he accepts out of courtesy.
Later, Pauline traces Grace’s figure using chalk on the sidewalk. She shares her plan to lose her virginity, saying that she wants to be on her period when she’s doing it. Phyllis invites them inside, saving Grace from an awkward conversation.
Bob sits on a sofa chair, devouring a container of ice cream. Phyllis judges her husband’s gluttony. She then speaks with Grace who is busy treating her illness. Phyllis prefers taking care of her as she sees her “normal” when compared to Pauline.
Grace is treated like a daughter Phyllis never had, even though Pauline exists. In another room, Pauline pierces her nose. She dreams of herself moving through an ocean of unclothed women. She submerges in a tub filled with blood, making her toes curl and her eyes roll in satisfaction.
She awakens, finding herself in euphoria. Pauline’s morbid dreams are a peek into her degrading sanity and repressed sexual desires. Though she wants Adam to take her virginity, she mostly dreams about fornicating with women. This could be seen as a desire to be sexually involved with the same sex, a normal thing for a teenager. What’s abnormal is how she integrates her desires with blood, bringing a whole new meaning to the term “wet dream”.
A New Piercing
At the breakfast table, Phyllis notices Pauline’s new piercing. She gets mad while Bob worries if she properly sterilized the needle. Phyllis orders her to remove the piercing, but Pauline tells her to get over it.
Phyllis is outraged and leaves. Bob then orders Pauline to remove her piercing, and she obeys. The couple converse on the couch. Phyllis asks Bob if she’s becoming her mother because of how hard she’s been on Pauline. Bob assures her that if she did act like her mother, he’d be divorcing her already. He tries to make a move on her, but she doesn’t reciprocate.
Meanwhile, Pauline and Grace play croquet. Grace opens up about her recent heartbreak. Her internet boyfriend broke up with her, changing her entire perception of men. Pauline stares at their jump-roping neighbor, Kimberly. Kimberly is weirder out and stops. Pauline tries starting a conversation, asking if they could jump rope together, but Kimberly refuses and flips them off.
Grace defends her sister, shouting at Kimberly. Grace then drags Pauline back inside. After some time, Pauline is on her computer searching for surgical tools.
Suddenly, Adam calls to accept her offer. She asks to be picked up on Monday and hangs up the phone. In her bathroom, Pauline pulls out her bloody tampon and smells it. Pauline prays again, this time expressing her concern about her dead relatives’ spirit watching her while she’s alone, saying she does a lot of weird stuff.
Pauline worries that her ancestors might watch her do it with Adam. It’s apparent that Pauline has managed to come up with her own interpretation of the bible and her religion. This is clearly shown in how the film pokes fun at different concepts in Christianity.
This, plus her fascination with blood, takes her weirdness to extreme levels. The more society doesn’t accept her, the more she accepts her macabre impulses. Her family falls asleep on the couch while watching T.V., and Pauline changes to a channel with a man moaning.
She dreams again, now seeing herself surrounded by a woman, a younger man, and an older man. They all approach her as if ready to devour her. She then wakes up the following morning next to a puddle of drool.
Grace plans to go to Camp Sunshine, a camp for kids with the same sickness Grace has. Pauline informs her mother about Adam coming to pick her up. She disguises the plan to lose her V card as them studying to get an A on their card.
Phyllis gives Pauline a makeover, preparing her to meet Adam. He arrives, and the three stand awkwardly by the door. Pauline and Adam drive away, and Phyllis proudly waves goodbye.
Phyllis feels somewhat proud of Pauline, thinking Pauline is going to hang out with a boy and finally becoming a “normal” teenager. This is essentially all she wants for her daughter, highlighting how they complicate such a simple problem because of their own underlying issues.
The effort Phyllis exerts to make Pauline presentable makes you think that if she also puts that much effort into understanding her, they might actually get along.
At a motel, Pauline and Adam waste no time. Pauline asks Adam to get naked and they get right to it. As they have intercourse, Pauline can’t help but picture herself choking Adam. In her head, blood starts gushing out of both of them, slowly soaking up the whole bed. Pauline writhes in ecstasy at the amount of blood covering them both.
Pauline asks Adam to go down on her, and he does so, but a viscous feeling makes him go to the bathroom. Adam sees in the mirror his mouth full of blood.
Adam brings Pauline back home, and Pauline is all smiles, thanking Adam for a wonderful time. Adam cusses at her and leaves quickly. Phyllis greets Pauline, seeming as though she knew what they did. Pauline prays once again, this time asking God not to make her pregnant as she’d have the baby aborted anyway. Pauline gets another dream. This time, a bloodied fetus comes out of her and gets sent into a washing machine.
The next morning, Phyllis informs Grace that her best friend from camp had died. Phyllis tells Pauline to be kind to Grace as she’s going through a tough time. Pauline then says that Grace is going to need a lung transplant. Due to the risks, she asks her mother to consider other alternatives.
In the car, Grace tells Bob that the worst part about having cystic fibrosis is learning about your friends dying. How Bob reacted in this scene is pretty much indicative of his relationship with his children. He tenses up, becomes uncomfortable, and doesn’t even try to show sympathy to his own child.
Arguably, Bob’s uninvolved parenting is just as harmful as Phyllis’s overbearing nature. It seems like he has been entirely domesticated by Phyllis and has lost all courage to have an opinion.
At the church, Pauline continues to be uncooperative with the reverend. She says her condition requires science, not religion. They end their final session with no progress. Pauline fails to see the irony that she doesn’t want a priest’s help as she believes religion can’t help her but is often praying to God and asking for help.
Perhaps she only believes in her version of God. One that has no counterargument to her thoughts because ultimately, she’s just talking to herself. And this becomes her source for validation.
Pauline prays once more and asks God to give her the power to save Grace. With life comes death, so Pauline asks God to kill her mother, even requesting that she suffer a bit, and to blame it on the devil.
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Kimberly visits the home, asking for donations to her jump rope club’s charity. Pauline confronts the neighbor, threatening to do a tracheotomy on her.
In the women’s locker room, Natalie and Abigail make fun of Pauline’s looks. Adam and Natalie had broken up, and Natalie tells Pauline that Adam is all hers. Pauline declines, saying Adam isn’t very good in bed. Natalie and Abigail then leave, laughing at Pauline’s figure.
Later, Pauline puts marks on her abdomen. She tells Grace that she plans to do an umbilicoplasty to change how she looks. Grace tells her that boys only care about two things, pointing to her chest. Pauline says she’s doing it for herself, but deep down, she knows she isn’t.
Underneath the tough and uninterested façade, Pauline cares what others think of her like a normal teen that faces insecurities and bullying. She puts on this mask that hides how much she’s affected by how other people treat her. Pauline is lying to herself because she doesn’t want to face the fact that she disappoints almost everyone she comes across.
While looking at a mirror, Pauline remembers a time she almost drowned. Bob had successfully resuscitated her. Despite her daughter’s near-death experience, all Phyllis could think about was Bob’s cold sore transferring to Pauline, saying they should’ve waited for the lifeguard. She then blames Pauline’s near-death experience due to Pauline being clumsy.
A Child That Is Hard To Deal
Phyllis is clearly more concerned about what others think of her over her own child’s safety. At dinner, the cotillion class is brought up again and Phyllis tells everyone she bought Pauline a dress. Pauline once again gets on Phyllis’ nerves when she expresses her desire for marriage.
Later, Pauline is in bed and Phyllis tries putting the dress on her. Pauline says she knows she’s a hard child to deal with and asks Phyllis if she still loves her. Phyllis says yes but immediately changes the subject to a cold sore on Pauline’s lip. She then tells Pauline they’ll have to avoid pictures. Pauline is frustrated and later gets a dream about a woman getting her tongue ripped out.
Here, we can spot a genuine attempt from Pauline trying to connect with her mother. However, Phyllis once again puts appearance above her daughter’s mental health. This gesture of trying to have a moment with her mother seems to be a recurring instance. In the bigger picture, Phyllis’s constant ignorance might add up and reach a point where Pauline has had enough.
Pauline’s dream implies her not being able to speak her mind and express herself freely. At school, Pauline sits beside Abigail. She asks to go to the bathroom and the teacher eventually allows her.
In a stall, she drinks a bottle of medicine. She then heads back to her seat and tells the teacher she’s feeling sick and asks to go to the clinic. This time, the teacher is fed up and refuses. Pauline suddenly starts vomiting all over Abigail.
At home, Phyllis confronts Pauline for stealing an Ipecac bottle from the cabinet. She admits it and confesses she only did it to escape the cotillion, but Phyllis is unrelenting. She feels proud and tries to make Pauline presentable.
At the dance, Pauline stands out among the teens. Pauline sits with a lonely girl who’d rather be at home reading. Pauline feels happy as she has finally found someone she can empathize with, and they start talking about boys. The girl tells her that boys only talk to her when they want her to do their homework. Pauline then suggests the girl undergo surgery to fix her face.
The girl is taken aback and leaves. Here, we see Pauline try to befriend someone at the cotillion who she surmises is similar to her. Even though they look like they’d get along, Pauline’s completely uninhibited, and she’s unaware of it.
It seems like Pauline got her insensitivity from her mother. She unknowingly puts value on physical attractiveness because that’s what Phyllis taught her. Pauline didn’t intend to hurt the girl’s feelings, but her nature of pushing everyone away shines through once again. A young boy asks Pauline to dance, and she agrees.
Meanwhile, Grace gets caught kissing a boy, and Phyllis scolds her. Grace reasons out that she’s at a very vulnerable time in her life. Phyllis is unfazed and grounds her. Grace then walks away.
Trying To Fit In
The young boy notices Pauline’s cold sore, saying it’s disgusting. Pauline then thanks him and suddenly kisses him. The boy pushes her away and this grabs everyone’s attention. Phyllis is disappointed yet again, seeing how Pauline only did this to spite her and to get out of the cotillion class.
At home, the family is in disarray. Bob cleans the muddy shoe prints. Phyllis contemplates her children’s behavior. Grace is in a coughing fit, and Pauline bites at her fingernails.
The next day, Pauline heads to the library to read about lungs. She sneaks home, and her mother asks where she’s been. Pauline says she’s been at the library. Phyllis says she got a call from the principal that Pauline didn’t show up in school and doesn’t believe she was at the library the whole day.
Pauline opens her backpack and spills her things on the floor. Phyllis then slaps her.At the dinner table, Pauline throws food at Phyllis and runs to her bedroom.
Later, Pauline overhears Phyllis and Bob talking. Phyllis says Pauline is a menace and should be out of the house. Bob reasons out that Pauline is still a teenager, but Phyllis disagrees, saying she’s tried everything, but it’s impossible to love Pauline. By her door, Pauline cries her heart out as she listens.
From this sequence, we see that Phyllis is, in fact, trying her best to connect with Pauline. What she doesn’t understand is she’s going about it all wrong. Pauline suffers from the same thing. Though she tries her best to appear as a hard ass, she too wants to be loved and accepted by her family. The problem is every time she tries, she’s instantly antagonized.
Like Mother Like Daughter
Though both Pauline and Phyllis kind of want the same thing, they keep missing the bull’s eye. The following morning, Pauline encounters a dead bird on her way to school. She picks it up and puts it in her backpack. Kimberly sees her and stares in disgust.
Back at home, Pauline cuts open the bird, taking out all its organs. Pauline intends to save the bird, remembering her desire to be a surgeon. Unfortunately, the bird is too far gone and can no longer be saved. She licks the bird’s blood off of her fingers while Phyllis knocks on her door.
At the dinner table, Pauline and Bob talk about the toilet. Phyllis stops them, saying it’s inappropriate. Pauline tries to leave, but Phyllis doesn’t allow her. She then reasons out that Phyllis can’t have any more calories as she can’t attribute her weight gain to menopause.
Pauline prays again. She wants to apologize for having intercourse but is trying to shift the blame to God as it was God who gave her hormones driving her to have desires.
She then has another dream where women slowly caress her as she retrieves her own severed head from inside a corpse. Phyllis speaks with her the following morning. She admits she’s also been hard to live with. She says she’s been reflecting on her actions and reveals that her mother had also been abusive. She tells Pauline that she doesn’t want to have the same relationship with her.
Pauline deflects her mother’s attempt to reach out and leaves. Here, we can see that it’s Phyllis who’s now trying to make amends with Pauline, and it’s Pauline who places a barrier.
The two still can’t manage to find a good compromise nor even just a starting point to repair their relationship. The reveal that Phyllis also underwent the same thing with her mother is very telling. Phyllis tried so hard not to be her mother. Still, she became the same evil that traumatized her. This shows that, sometimes, abused people end up being abusers too.
The family awakens the next morning to find their house had been vandalized. Pauline suspects Natalie and Abigail. She heads to school, finds Natalie, and smashes her head against a locker, leaving her bloodied.
At the principal’s office, Pauline blames what happened on hormonal imbalance and mental health problems. However, no records are showing she’s sick since her parents never took her to a doctor.
Pauline says any psychologist could just take a five-minute look at her and agree. The principal shrugs and blames Pauline’s actions on her and nothing else.
At home, Pauline tells Phyllis she probably has a personality disorder that has gone undiagnosed for years, and her actions are a call for help. Phyllis disregards this completely and sends Pauline to her room. In the bathroom, Pauline carves the Red Cross symbol onto her arm.
Phyllis sees this and berates her for it. Here, we can notice Phyllis and Pauline’s relationship hanging by its last thread. How Pauline immediately gets ignored when she revealed the rationale behind her actions might’ve been the last straw. There’s no more hope, and that Red Cross symbolizes that.
Like how a tattoo is permanent, the damage Phyllis inflicted on Pauline can’t be reversed. It may heal, but the scars will remind Pauline of the suffering she went through.
During dinner, Phyllis and Bob express their disappointment. Bob tells her she’ll never have a career in medicine, and Phyllis calls her delusional. Later, she dreams of being worshipped by a group of people with blood and guts strewn over her neck.
Call from Doctor
At breakfast, Phyllis informs her that she and Bob have decided to send Pauline to a psychiatrist. Pauline appreciates it but believes she’s already too far gone.
Later that day, Phyllis receives a call from Grace’s doctor. She tells Bob that Grace will need a lung transplant soon. Up in her room, Pauline overhears the conversation.
Pauline sits with Grace and promises that she’ll do everything she can to cure her, so she can live long enough to get married. Grace tells Pauline she wants her to be the maid of honor.
At the dinner table, Pauline thanks her parents for tolerating her. Phyllis tries cutting her off, but Pauline continues, telling her mother she’s trying to have a heart-to-heart talk with them.
Pauline tells them she wants to turn her life around and help with Grace’s illness. Bob approves of her decision, but Phyllis remains pessimistic.
Later that night, Pauline talks to God for the last time and thanks him. She measures Grace’s dimensions, then she sits on the bathroom floor with her surgical tools. She dreams once again about her performing actual surgery. She wakes up laughing. With her sister’s condition worsening,
Pauline has mustered up the courage to change. This sudden shift in perspective, coupled with Pauline’s dreams intensifying, is different. Her life might appear to be changing for the better, but something seems off because the main focus of her dreams wasn’t anything sexual.
It showed Pauline with a different drive and motivation. This may be related to how she wants to save Grace, suggesting that her dream of becoming a surgeon might finally become reality.
With her mother gone, Pauline prepares tea for her and Bob, putting white powder in his cup. The two of them talk, and Bob asks Pauline to be more understanding with her mother.
Outside, Pauline apologizes to Kimberly. She offers her old jump ropes, and Kimberly follows her to get them. Suddenly, she places a rag over Kimberly’s face and drags her away.
Back inside, Pauline fixes Grace’s hair. She then tells Grace that someday she’ll be thankful for what she’s about to do. As she leans in for a hug, Pauline covers Grace’s face with a rag until she’s unconscious.
In the bathroom, Pauline cuts her hair off while preparing for surgery. In the garage, Grace and Kimberly’s bodies lay lifeless and open. Pauline meticulously removes Grace’s lungs and replaces them with Kimberly’s.
Meanwhile, Phyllis arrives, and she sees Bob tied up and unconscious. Phyllis looks for her missing daughters while Bob struggles to break free. She finally gets to the garage and comes face to face with Pauline’s handiwork. Pauline invites her to see Grace’s sutures, apologizing for her sloppy technique. Phyllis gets overwhelmed upon seeing the two dead girls, but she approaches Pauline and hugs her.
Pauline and Phyllis both scream and cry. Both are screaming in agony and regret. Phyllis finally understands the extent of Pauline’s troubles and regrets not being able to act sooner. Pauline also realizes what she has done, regretting everything.
But what makes her cry the most is that she finally gets a hug from her mother, and what makes it worse is she only got the hug after she dismembered two young girls.
Like how Pauline masks her developing mental illness with odd and funny quirks, the film puts on a comedic forefront that hides its emotionality and drama. At first, Pauline’s situation seemed typical for a misunderstood teen. And this is why the ending became that much more surprising.
Her dreams vaguely alluded to what would happen because they mostly focused on the erotic aspect. Before the end, Pauline portrayed a resentful daughter and not at all a murderer.
This shows that we never really know what’s going on inside the mind of a troubled person. This movie delves into a lot of issues including the nature versus nurture argument, religion, dysfunctional family dynamics, and teenagers undergoing hormonal changes.
It’s sad how Pauline’s cries for help were often not recognized and were only perceived as a teenager acting out.
While this movie was labeled horror, there were no jump scares or murders except in the end. This is because the real horror resides in the ordinary: how easily a young, innocent mind can be enveloped by darkness is what makes the film and Pauline genuinely terrifying.