90210 star AnnaLynne McCord plays Pauline, a pretty young thing who lives in the shadow of her prettier sister and Bible-thumping mother (former "adult" "actress" Traci Lords). To compensate she spends most of her head-time in a sado-masochistic fantasy world of sexual and other biological perversions. Not one for grandma, then. But stunt casting serves to keep interest levels high, with Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) joining arch provocateur John Waters and that other guarantee of weirdness, Malcolm McDowell.
Richard Bates Jr
Typical, you wait years for one quirky, necrophiliac, indie horror to arrive and then...well, only one turns up. Excision is probably why.
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is just your average dysfunctional teen - average apart from her sexualized fantasies about blood, surgery, necrophilia and dismemberment. In the mirror, she's drab and scabbed. But in her violent and macabre dreams, she's beautiful, immaculate and desirable.
She shares her middle class home with her neurotic and overbearing mother (the excellent Lords), downtrodden father, and younger sister who suffers from cystic fibrosis.
If Pauline qualifies as a surgeon, perhaps she can fix her sibling, the only person she truly seems to connect with. She prepares for this calling by dissecting roadkill and skipping school to devour anatomy books in the library.
The film begins as a quirky family drama with some effective light comedy, as Pauline attempts to lose her virginity and deal with her oppressive home and school life.
Her early monologue confessionals with a God she doesn't believe in are also a highlight. However, the film then lurches in tone, from farce to some very dark dream imagery and back again.
A newly aborted foetus dangled by the umbilical cord before exploding in an oven is deliberately and unnecessarily provocative, and signals the start of an incoherent second half that never recovers poise or lucidity.
These bizarre tonal shifts massively dilute an excellent central performance from 90210's McCord, who is going to be a star. However, debut director Richard Bates Jr. robs her character of any escalating motivation for her later acts, saddling us with a denouement that is more shrug-inducing than horrifying.
And after such a promising first 40 minutes, that's a bloody shame.