Director: Richard Bates, Jr.
Staring: Anna Lynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Gray Gubler, Marlee Matlin, Ray Wise, John Waters
Plot: Pauline (McCord) a high school student with aspirations of a career as a surgeon, while she tries to earn the approval of her controlling and religious mother (Lords) whose focus is constantly with her younger sister Grace (Winter) who is slowly dying of cystic fibrosis. To escape these pressures, Pauline frequently finds herself slipping into increasingly into her own fantasy world of sex and violence, only to soon find these morbid obsessions soon leaking into her real life.
Review: Originally this film came to my attention while compiling my top picks for 2012 over at my blogging home away from home lucyindasky.com and while it was originally listed for a cinematic release it would seem if this film ever got one it was certainly a really limited one, as first news I had on this one finally being released was when I stumbled across it at my local blockbuster. Still in the lead up to the release of this film I had frequently spammed various friends with the trailer which is nothing short of attention grabbing it’s safe to say and unfortunately it now seems the wait to see this film ended up being a little disappointing.
An expansion on his original short film of the short film of the same name, which I have still yet to see and like the director seems to be frustratingly hard to find out anything about it, even his IMDB profile is pretty much devoid of any information outside of his filmography. Still this film stands well on its own with any prior knowledge of the original short, while the most fascinating aspect of the film is uglification of McCord which is possibly one of the most striking since Charlize Theron’s Oscar winning turn in “Monster”, while making a bold break from her usual vixen esq roles she has become so synonymous with playing, as with the character of Pauline she gives us here something awhole lot more darker.
Pauline is quite simply "a disturbed little girl" as best put by her priest / councillor which is really saying something considering that the priest is being played by John Waters, something which should also really serve as a warning for sign for what waits ahead, as she nurtures her obsession with death and generally anything of a morbid nature, as especially seen during her dream sequences, which focus largely on mutilation, necrophilia and bucket loads of gore all tinted with a sexual edge, while the return to reality is nearly always met with the image of a post masturbation Pauline. Unsurprisingly it is only a matter of time before these fantasies start working their way into her real life, as her behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre as the film progresses towards its grizzly climax. Unsurprisingly for a film featuring such a unique creation, the film is extremely character driven with the only semblance to a plot coming towards the end of the film and then only to set up the climax, as the film moves from one grotesque incident to the next.
In many ways the style of the film could easily be compared to that of Todd Solondz via the way of John Waters, in particular Solondz’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse” with Bates demonstrating through her an equally warped world view only with an increased interest in sex and gore, most of which he explores with Paulines fantasy sequences were she plays a glamorous version of herself in a world were she can pursue any perverse desire she wants, with these fantasies often having close ties to the events happening to her in the real world and really only makes it all the more fitting that Pauline is dressed as Elizabeth Báthory on the DVD cover, especially when Pauline also homages Báthory’s legendry virgin blood baths during one of her dream sequences.
McCord here shows real commitment to the role as she is fully believable as both sides of Pauline, committing fully to even the most disgusting moments the film has to offer, which most actors would no doubt decline fearing the effect playing such a role would have on their career, while she shows a real charm for the more more black humoured parts of the film, such as her conversations with god in which she frequently seems to be confessing in advance for the sins she is planning on committing. She also receives strong support from an ironically cast Lords as her bible thumping mother, who has honestly never been better than she is here and frequently threatens to steal the attention away from McCord. Sadly Bates also underuses other members of his cast such as Malcom McDowell and Ray Wise who essentially appear here in what amounts to a glorified cameo, something which is only more of a shame when McDowell brings such a gleeful snarl to his role as one of Pauline’s teachers.
Ultimately the film suffers from pitfalls as “The Human Centipede” in that it allows itself to get to caught up in the spectacle and forgets that an audience cannot maintain their interest on just shock and awe alone, though given the choice between the two I would still return to this film again, rather than sit through Tom Six’s overhyped surgery shocker. Still while it might seem like a random series of increasingly disgusting and shocking events, it was a couple of days after seeing the film, that it dawned on me that what we are witnessing here is the birth of a psycho only shot from the psycho’s perspective, something only furthered by the slowly graduating between the levels of psycho behaviour, as Pauline moves from fantasies to dissecting dead animals to ultimately moving onto human dissection, all under the guise of her desire to be a surgeon. Further evidence of this theory for myself was seen in her ever growing desire to break social norms, as her world view twists to suit her personal outlook such as her blasé reaction to having her period while clumsily seducing her high school crush Adam (Sumpter) with the prospect of easy sex. Sadly Bates chooses for some reason to not give us a big insight into why Pauline does what she does and instead gives us an ending which seems more sudden than conclusive. Even now after several days to reflect on it, I can’t truly say if I loved or hated it and perhaps I will revisit at a later date as it’s often ham fisted handling of its shocks, puts me off revisiting it sooner, leaving it at best a curiosity and one which make me curious to see what Bates chooses to follow it up with.