Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Movie Review: Severance

Today's review is for a nice, tight little horror flick called Severance. The movie works very well because it contains what I believe to be a key element in a large number of quality horror flicks; dark humor and some kind of relevant subtext. I'm not suggesting that every horror film has to operate on multiple levels, or that I want some ham handed socially relevant message knocking me on the head, but I firmly believe that quite often entertaining genre flix have the ability to work on a secondary level, at least for savvy viewers. (pun intended).

The set up for Severance is pretty basic. The european sales division of a multi-national weapons company (Palisade Defence) are treated by the corporation to a trip to a lodge in Eastern Europe where they will engage in a fun weekend of "team building" (and to anyone who's had to participate in "team building", a fun weekend of such is sort of an oxymoron). The group is made up of a mixture of characters who do an excellent job of establishing themselves as individuals, rather than purely caricatures. That's important, especially in a horror thriller where we know many of them will eventually die, most likely in a horrible fashion. This is a huge element for horror flicks, and I remember something I once read in a book about Quentin Tarantino. He was speaking about Stephen King novels, (one of my favorite authors) , and Quentin mentioned that the key to those novels is that King spends time allowing the reader to get to know these people and maybe even like them or care about them, so that when the carnage begins it hits us with more oomph.

I certainly don't want to spoil too much about the plot, but simply note this: many horrible things have occurred in eastern europe in the last few decades, including attempted genocide, torture, and the use of weapons to inflict this pain had to come from somewhere. Hmm, what if some people survived these events?

The film also uses the now standard but groundbreaking in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction time manipulation, particularly in how it starts with a very intense scene, then abruptly shoots backwards , leaving us as viewers to wonder how we got there. (Sort of reminds me of the great movie Sunset Boulevard, by Billy Wilder, when William Holden is floating face down in a pool and begins the narration. We know the end, but the filmmaker is confident enough that you will enjoy the journey so much the knowledge of the end is secondary - think also about American Beauty, when Kevin Spacey starts out with the gunshot death)

The confidence shown by director Christopher Smith to attempt this is happily met by his ability to pull it off. Highly recommended film, and good enough that I have added Smiths earlier film, Creep to my Netflix que.


1 comment:

Kate said...

Awesome review. You almost made me want to watch it. :-)