ORROR FILMMAKERS HAVE LONG BEEN FASCINATED WITH SURGERY AND MEDICAL PROCEDURES, BUT
THE TROPE GETS A SEXUALLY CHARGED TWEAK IN RICHARD BATES JR.’S DEBUT FEATURE. EXCISION, based on Bates’ 2008 short film of the same title, is the gory and perversely funny tale of Pauline (model-turned-actor AnnaLynne McCord), a misfit teen from the suburbs whose fantasies about having sex with corpses and performing surgery on her fellow teens lead her down a very
dangerous, extremely bloody path. The film, which co-stars Traci Lords as Pauline’s uptight mother, John Waters as a put-upon clergyman and Malcolm Mc- Dowell as a hostile teacher, earned a world premiere at Sundance earlier this year, and was just released on DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay. In a phone interview, Bates helps us cut right to the heart of the splatter.
Stephen King once said he was unsure about writing Carrie because he didn’t know “jack shit” about teenage girls. Did you have any similar concerns? It’s strange, but I really didn’t even think about it. I just wrote the character based on the girls I know. In some twisted way, part of Pauline is my dream girl. Diane Lane in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains is my all- time crush, so I tried to channel that character into Pauline. There’s a lot of me in [Pauline] too, which is a strange thing to say. Pauline is sort of what I would have been like in high school if I’d had the balls.
McCord is an unexpected choice to play Pauline; she’s very beautiful and glamourous and her character, well, isn’t. Why did you cast her? I had no intention of casting her at first. I had met a lot of actresses, and I hadn’t found one I could bank the movie on. I took a meeting with AnnaLynne, and she came to lunch in character. She wasn’t a girly girl. She’s tough, she curses like a sailor – she has quite a dark side. I asked her if she was prepared to shave her head, and she took a knife off the table and started cutting her hair off in front of me. And I just could tell – there was something in her eyes that made me think, this girl is wonderful and crazy enough to pull this off.
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heart sank and I didn’t think he was going to do it. Then he goes, “Well, listen, I don’t fly coach and I’m not shaving my moustache, but I’m going to do it.”
Excision feels like a twisted take on a John Hughes film. Was that a conscious thing? Yes, Hughes was a huge influence on the movie – Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, even Some Kind of Wonderful, I really love that one. I love his characters, like the drum- mer chick in Some Kind of Wonderful. There’s a little bit of her in Pauline too.
It’s kind of refreshing that Excision exists at an uncomfort- able intersection of violence and sex, but no one gets raped. When I was sending the script around, that was the first note a producer gave me – that Pauline should get raped and possibly have a child at the end. If I had a rape scene in it, I probably would have gotten it financed way earlier.
How did you get John Waters involved? Traci [Lords] knew how much I loved John and put me in touch with him, and I sent John the script. I didn’t hear back for a while, then [he called] and said, “Ricky, this is John Waters. I read your script and it’s very strange.” My
Necrophilia is an ugly subject, but Pauline’s fantasies are beautiful. Why did you take that approach? I’m really turned off when I see ugly gore in movies. But then I see blood in a Clive Barker movie and I think, oh my God, that’s gorgeous. I kind of mod- elled all those scenes on that sort of aesthetic. A lot of it’s from [avant-garde artist and filmmaker] Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycle, and some is from [Alejandro] Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, and maybe even a little bit of Video- drome – you know, the sexuality in the violence. I tried hard to not make anything gross or grungy until we get to that last scene in the garage. Every- thing else is supposed to be beautiful.