SXSW 2015 Review: Excess Flesh

2015/03/23 14:59:05 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

In Excess Flesh, we follow a mentally imbalanced woman by the name of Jill (Bethany Orr), whose preoccupation with her roommate Jennifer (Mary Loveless) and her own self-loathing pushes her sanity to the edge, changing the lives of both women forever. Co-written and directed by Patrick Kennelly, Excess Flesh does its best to explore the dangers of obsession in its many forms and society’s depiction of beauty, but ultimately comes up short, as the script never really goes much further than skin-deep with its often convoluted message and the finale doesn’t make much sense overall.

At the beginning, Excess Flesh starts off by reminding us of society’s horribly unrealistic physical standards and the unfortunate state of body-shaming thoughts which is all well and good. We meet Jill  and Jennifer, the latter being involved with the fashion industry and fixated on looking perfect at all times. Jilly, a frumpy shut-in who can’t seem to get her life together and spends most of her time preoccupied with junk food and cooking shows. Jennifer verbally abuses her pal about her weight and image to the point that Jill’s life begins to spiral out of control as she begins to binge and purge in an effort to get some sort of fulfillment in life. But when that’s not enough, Jill decides it’s time to confront her friend and her insulting behaviors, leading to a deadly confrontation between the two as Jill’s need for validation takes a twisted and horrific turn- and that’s precisely when the film begins to fall apart around itself.

The thing about Excess Flesh is that, while it may think it’s saying something clever about society’s pressures on women, all it really succeeds in doing is giving viewers a tabloid-esque snapshot of a much bigger problem and trying to boil down the issues into some visually provocative moments that ultimately mean absolutely nothing at all. The film was an opportunity for Kennelly and his co-writer Sigrid Gilmer to explore some truly powerful issues that have plagued women for decades and yet, the only thing they could come up with was shooting Jill’s dangerous binging and purging episodes in slow motion (yes, we even see Orr vomiting into a toilet in slo-mo, so I’d definitely recommend not trying to eat while watching Excess Flesh) rather than any sort of compelling dialogue about how these activities can often relate to deeper mental issues more so than just the need to be ‘skinny.’

While Excess Flesh may not necessarily be a wholly successful effort from Kennelly, the film does have several strong aspects to it. The performances from both Orr and Loveless are dynamic and powerful,  each giving their respective roles a feeling of raw ferocity that was rather remarkable. Cinematographer Benjamin Conley does an incredible job of immersing us inside this twisted world with some impressive visuals (even if slo-mo shots are way overused) and the score by Jonathan Snipes is pretty great as well. It’s just a shame that Kennelly chooses to go for a more shocking finale rather than one that tries to put all the pieces of his puzzle together here, as that may have helped Excess Flesh become something more than a movie that wants to horrify viewers just because it can.

Movie Score: 2/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.