This is a film that I heard about but I had no idea what the film was about since I tried hard to avoid spoilers. This film was in the horror section and while it has that transgressive element common to horror it is also a family drama but with quite a lot more blood and gore than is typical in that genre and that is right from the opening scene. The majority of the gore is in fantasy sequences in the head of the main character.
This film follows the story of Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), a high school senior who is far beyond merely socially awkward and is definitely has an undiagnosed mental condition. Suffering is not the correct term since it her family that do most of the suffering from her condition. She has the delusion that she is on track to becoming a surgeon and her dreams are filled with bloody necrophilic fantasies of her being worshipped as a beautiful glamorous surgeon.
Pauline’s family find it difficult to cope with her strange behaviour. Her mother Phyllis (Traci Lords) feels the burden of trying to create a normal family environment is totally on her shoulders since her husband Bob (Roger Bart) has delegated all his responsibility to her. Phyllis has little patience with Pauline’s behaviour and in a desperate attempt to civilise her she signs her up for some ritual called cotillion which Pauline desperately wants to avoid. Pauline’s younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter) has cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that damages the lungs and often leads to a shortened life expectancy. The fact that she is beautiful, sweet and loving makes the tragedy of her condition all the worse.
Pauline has absolutely no friends at school and her classmates treat her like a freak but she really seems to have little interest in them anyway. The teachers find her exasperating with her unpredictable disruptive behaviour. Her question in sex education class about the possibility of catching an STD from sex with a corpse is treated as a juvenile joke by the science teacher Mr Claybaugh (Matthew Gray Gubler) but after seeing her fantasies it’s clearly something she really wanted to know.
I don’t know if it was because of the sex education or not but Pauline decides to lose her virginity, something she confides in with Grace who really didn’t want to know and to a god she doesn’t believe in but she pre-emptively asks for forgiveness anyway. After overhearing two classmates Natalie (Molly McCook) and Abigail (Natalie Dreyfuss) joking about size of Natalie’s boyfriend’s penis Pauline approaches the boyfriend Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) and tells him she wants to lose her virginity to him. Adam is embarrassed because he is with his friends and feigns disinterest but he phones her later and Pauline arranges a time to meet. They go to a motel and Pauline takes charge. Pauline had madesure to time her sex to coincide with her period partly to make sure she doesn’t become pregnant but she then asks Adam to go down on her with very predictable results. When it’s over Pauline has no interest in Adam and he is physically repulsed by her.
The drama reaches a terrible but almost inevitable conclusion. Her disruptive behaviour and delusions are too much for the counselling efforts of the local minister Reverend William (John Waters) whose sessions have been reduced to him suffering a torrent of abuse from Pauline. When Pauline physically assaults Natalie as payback for a prank she gets expelled and Phyllis realises she needs professional help. At the same time Grace’s condition gets worse and her doctor puts her on the lung transplant list. There is no doubt Pauline loves Grace and her delusions lead her to implement a terrible plan. This is a disturbing film but it keeps most of the fantastic gore in the world of a highly stylized fantasy in Pauline’s head but Pauline tries bringing her fantasy into the real world and the results are not pretty.
I am not sure what I think of this film. The cast did a great job and I was certainly drawn into the story. There is a scene where Pauline overhears Phyllis breaking down and telling Bob that she can’t love her daughter and this just destroys Pauline. I was a bit distracted by some of the well-known faces such as Ray Wise as the headmaster and Malcolm MacDowell as the maths teacher, both playing exasperated authority figures. Some of the fantasy scenes seemed to deliberately trying for shock and while it will succeed with some people I found it a bit silly. Despite my misgivings I think it is worth a watch