Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: Severed

I'm going to see if I can do this in 500 words, starting after the colon:

Severed is a Canadian film set in a forest where loggers are fighting protesters. Two scientists, meanwhile, find an anomaly in the tree sap. The loggers merrily lop old life forms until one of them nicks himself with his chainsaw and his blood mashes with the gluggy red sap which looks like the strawberry jam in market donuts. The other loggers run to his aid but he turns nasty, biting them and glaring into the light of the world with wild red eyes.

Back on the shore of the corporation , the boss shows the suits some old school and ropes his only begotten in to enter the forest and investigate the slackened production. Scene of father-and-son-drift and the boy goes off and finds the zombies who are all like the first, rabid, red eyed and hungry. He meets up with a small group of survivors. George A. Romero anyone?

Well, yes and no. First, it's unashamedly on video which lends it the authenticity it needs if it insists on being so generic. Second, the score is a low key drone that shifts the lush Canadian forest from visually pacifying to disturbing. Characterisation and performances are on a par with the average Romero piece: competent enough to keep the narrative going. There is the obligatory stronger settlement where the survivors have fortified themselves to weather the terror until the zombies are gone and the company's gunships stop flying over. The company's a big pig intent on filling the world with the junk of GM forestry. The climactic scene and final sequence play out as a call for responsibility and bring the whole exercise some unexpected dignity.

Isn't this a little like 28 Days Later? 28 Days refined an old idea of zombies being infected from industrial science (Jean Rollin's Grapes of Death). Danny Boyle's film bloats and lumbers into line early. Severed, by comparison is like a groove- rather than note- perfect blues band grinding out standards with style. They're a covers band but that shouldn't stop them being sexy.

If you're going to cover Romero you need do it right. Remember that relentlessly slow moving zombies are more frightening than ones that can run. Remember that if you can't pull off a suspense sequence with performances and minimal editing you're in the wrong business or you're Michael Bay (same thing). Remember if you are going to hammer big business you should put some effort into bringing something fresh to that creaky old table. Overall, go back and watch Night of the Living Dead and remember how much can be made of how little if your idea can survive the premise.

Severed checks out. It's not a remarkable entry in the subgenre but it does its job very well. It also avoids tiresome attempts at injecting stoogey comedy into a situation that works well enough as horror. Leave your eight barrelled shotties and ironic one liners in the first draft. Everyone finds them grating and no one will miss them.


Did it.

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