Ed. note- Okay, so I watched the short and feature versions of EXCISION in the wrong order. And that’s exactly how I want you to watch them, if you know nothing about them or haven’t seen either. You’ll thank me later.- P.F.
I probably should have watched Richard Bates, Jr.’s short version of EXCISION from 2008 before I watched the full version he released in 2012. But I had no idea there was a short until I went to investigate the full film on the IMDB. So the short came across as a stripped down, bare bones version of the feature, when in fact the feature is a fully blossomed, developed version of the short. Despite my order of viewing, suffice it to say that the EXCISION short is a solid film that sports some provocative ideas Bates would later fully flesh out.
The short film is a tale of outcast Pauline, a hopeful med student who makes a horrifically misguided decision in hopes of doing something noble.
EXCISION excises much of the first 2/3 of the feature, picking up in a shared scene where Pauline finds a dead bird and dissects it. The short quickly establishes the dysfunctional dynamic, Pauline’s fantasy world, and her younger sister’s cystic fibrosis. The outcast Pauline makes much the same horrific noble gesture here, and the final shot is about exactly the same.
This works, and it doesn’t. Given 18 minutes, Bates has to tell the story in much broader strokes, both in story and characterization. Pauline is odd, but not nearly as odd as she is with an extra 62 minutes of buildup. Her antagonistic relationship with her mother is here, but clipped, so not quite as powerful nor as dramatic. It also doesn’t help that the gap in talent between Tessa Ferrer and AnnaLynne McCord as Pauline is wide, and while Karen Tiegren is suitable here as the mother, Traci Lords is transcendent.
But the short is not without its charms, the best of which is the story stays the same. Whole lines of dialogue remained intact in the transition, and greatly benefit the feature. Bates’ vision for EXCISION started here, and it’s just as dark. The truncated version is so spare, that had I seen it before I watched the full film, that shock ending probably would have shocked me even more. And that speaks volumes.
Bates’ short version of EXCISION is well worth a watch if you’ve seen the feature, even if only as a curiosity. If you haven’t seen either start with the full version to get the most visceral impact of that ending. Then come back and watch the short. It shows the promise on which Bates would deliver with the longer version, and even on its own, it’s a solid beginning for a young talent.