OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets


Severance (2006)

I decided to add a new tag for the movies I watch (and sometimes, force myself to watch): "Europe". It is interesting to see and/or read what American movie fans think of European horror flicks and how they talk about the landscape etc. in their reviews - seeing as I am from Europe, I can't find anything particularly enchanting about our landscapes, and the oh-so mysterious countries full of wild, untamed nature and foreign people are pretty much my neighbours or where I grew up... so, naturally, I have a bit of a different take on movies set in Europe.

Apparently, this opinion of Europe as some sort of mysterious continent filled with cruel wonders is not just limited to USAnians - also the British appear to suffer from it (just consider the fact that they call people like me "Europeans", disregarding the small fact that their island is actually part of this mysterious Europe). As I noticed it for the first time tonight whilst watching Severance, I decided to give this tag a try. Maybe it will catch on - and maybe we can infer some interesting statistical data about the amount of horror movies set in Europe vs. those set in the US of A. Or maybe not, who knows.

Anyways... Severance. If I had been the person to choose a tagline, it wouldn't have been "Another bloody office outing." Nah, I would have come up with something far wittier and more interesting: "Escorts - they save lives. YOUR lives." Because it's true. It's also infinitely more cool and awesome, but alas, I have to live with the fact that my brilliance sometimes goes unnoticed.

On a sidenote: I turn off my phone whilst watching a movie. FYI. In case any of you were wondering.

Severance is not too original when it comes to the story. Seriously, I like the movie, but I can't bring myself to call its plot "original". I mean, consider the following:

A group of people get stranded in the woods and land in a more or less abandoned, old house and soon start to get killed off by, well, someone.

Hardly sounds like something the writer would win a Pulitzer for, mh?

However... the cast, the dialogues and the whole setup just make this boring premise into a highly entertaining and amusing movie. And I'm not easily amused by so-called horror comedies. Unless I am totally drunk or otherwise under the influence, or if a movie just serves me horror-inside jokes. Considering that I was dreadfully sober whilst watching Severance and couldn't detect any in-jokes that only hardened horror fanatics would ever manage to understand, I dare say that the movie does a good job on the humour front. Maybe it's that dry, totally black British humour thing. I admit it, I have a certain fondness for British humour (hence my tendency to suddenly quote Monty Python's during conversations, often to the chagrin of my less movie-addicted discussion partners - try referencing Life of Brian in theology classes at the catholic institute...).

What makes this movie funny? First of all, the dialogues. They're really good. Situational comedy, delivered in that dry and utterly bleak way... gods, I had to laugh out loud on several occasions. Unlike Planet Terror, in which the comedy is conscious and witty as well but nonetheless is constructed to be funny, Severance manages to deliver the comedy in a natural, fluent way. I once again stand by my assessment that only the British can do that.

[after they heard a bear roar]
Richard: "There are no bears in Hungary. Unless we've crossed the border into Romania, in which case there ARE bears. If we're in Serbia, then... I don't know."
Harris: "That's really interesting, Richard. Tell me something: are bears required to stop at borders? Is there some sort of, I don't know, passport control for bears?"

...I absolutely broke down with laughter when I saw the bear crossing in the background one or two scenes later. Apparently, bears can sneak through international borders (I'm from Austria, after our latest disaster involving a bear, I should know... gods, the bear-problem... cunningly used by our idiotic government to distract my even more idiotic fellow Austrians from the huge economical problem... other countries at least instigate pointless wars to make their disastrous economy appear insignificant, we just hunt one single fucking random bear and order bear-killing specialists from Finland... *facepalm*).

So... dialogues. It's really hard to reproduce them for your enjoyment, because a) I didn't feel like stopping the movie every time something made me laugh, and b) you wouldn't really get it without the pictures anyways. As I mentioned above - situational comedy. So, those of you who have no problem with a little violence in your black comedies (and I assume you don't, seeing that you are reading this very blog of mine) - go and get this movie via your preferred means. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Besides being a deeply black comedy, Severance also has some very macabre moments. Our stoner-protagonist (played by Danny Dyer) has to relieve himself in the woods, and we get treated to a shot of him pissing into the open mouth of a female corpse buried under dried leaves etc. Call me sick if you want, but I found it amusing - until it sunk in how macabre this actually is. No offense to those of you who get their rocks off by giving female corpses golden showers, of course. I still respect you.

I didn't manage to grab the actual piss. Sorry, guys.

Another thing that makes the plot enjoyable is that, although the premise is the classical basis for any slasher movie or cheap gorefest of the past years, the elements differ in certain important aspects:

First of all, our protagonists aren't a bunch of lousy teenagers or young adults who want to get drunk, doped up and engage in a little decadence and debauchery (the evil Ds of horror movies), and neither are they a happy family or group of bestest friends ever. They are just people who happen to work for the same company - Palisade Defense, a company that manifactures and distributes weapons. Surprisingly enough, that's actually important to the plot of the second and third act.

Speaking of the plot and the second and third act... we get a rather unexpected twist - one that I for once didn't see coming at all. I approve of unexpected twists, as long as they aren't fucking with my actual enjoyment of the movie in question and are completely unnecessary and/or uncalled for. This twist was neither of those things - it made for a very good surprise and packed the film's last act with action that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

One other thing that impressed me was the soundtrack. It totally fits, I like it, and it actually enhances the movie. It's not one of those soundtracks that I desperately have to hunt down so that I can enjoy it whilst sitting in the tram on my way to university (like the Re-Animator soundtrack, with which I am desperately in love - which reminds me, I should do a review of the Re-Animator movies...), but it's solid, well done and sounds good. Just what I want a soundtrack to be. There's never any moment where you'd just wish that the damned music should just freaking stop (I'm sorry to say it, but John Carpenter's Halloween is one of those cases for me...).

Also, the pictures and the whole composition of the movie has a special flair to it. It enhances the humour already inherent in the dialogues by a mile. It's hard to explain without taking a multitude of screenshots, and I'm really not in the mood to do that right now... all I can say is that you should just see for yourself. It's never over the top, and always stays within the realm of the realistic... but those little things just make Severance much more satisfying on an optical level.

The acting is also solid through and through. Everyone involved in this flick does a great job. Granted, I seem to watch a bunch of actually good movies for once, so when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed the acting, it doesn't seem to mean a lot to you guys, because I have yet to put a review of a truly abysmal movie up (what can I say, I was lucky in the last months... but never fear, I am now in possession of 38 Godzilla movies, so I'll soon have something to complain about... although... does Narok count?), but considering the movies I have watched before having had the idea of putting this blog up, I am still surprised when I get to see good acting in a horror movie. Even if it is more of a black comedy than a real horror movie.

Speaking of horror... gore: Sparingly used, but beautiful. I know, I know, those of you who know me personally (I guess that most of my readers consist of people who only read this because they know me... go figure) are aware of the fact that a simple kitchen knife on display in a store can make me gleefully happy, and that shots of people holding a hunting knife in a threatening way make me even more happy... but seriously. There's only a little gore, only a little blood... but I liked what I saw. Well done. Also, it mixes bizarre, macabre humour with the gory goodness, and I like that. Yes, I know, I like everything that involves gore and blood. Still. I have seen terrible gore, and Severance, whilst not something that satisfies the gorehound in me, manages to deliver nice stuff. Could have been more, but that's just me. I guess that more of the sanguinary stuff could actually have been detrimental to the movie as a whole. There, that's probably the first time that I ever said those words (or rather, wrote them down).

Something that needs to be mentioned is the camerawork, especially the use of perspective. I wouldn't call it perfect, but it's close to perfect. Just like the soundtrack and the whole setup does, it truly enhances the movie.

Now, after rattling about how good Severance is... why don't I give it the full score? Simple... or rather, not really as simple as I'd like to. The body count, whilst nice and high enough to make me happy, just isn't graphic enough for me. If you burn someone alive in your movie, do it onscreen. Alex Aja has shown how to do it properly. The gore could have been more visceral - I want to be able to literally smell the blood emanating from my screen. Whilst more gore could have been detrimental to the movie, I would have liked to see the one that actually was depicted in a more detailed way.
Also, some of the scenes were just a tad too unrealistic for me. Don't get me wrong, unrealistic scenes don't bother me in the least - I watch horror movies religiously, I am the last person to complain about unrealistic scenes. However, if your whole movie is very realistic and apparently made to be like that, then you might want to consider using unrealistic setups.
Sometimes, I wasn't entirely clear about the motivation of the characters as well. I won't give any spoilers, but you'll know what I mean when you see it.

And then there's death by editing. I do not like death by editing.

My biggest problem with the movie is that I don't understand the motivation of the killer(s). I just can't understand it. I am quite aware of the stuff that went on in Eastern Europe (hell, I live right next to that particular area of the world), and I can understand a lot of things that make people kill. I couldn't wrap my head around the so-called motivation (which is poorly explained anyways) we are given in Severance.

However - we get treated to nearly naked escorts and nurses. NAUGHTY nurses. Who prove that TF is right when stating that black-and-white-contrasts look really good on women.

Can we please have more of that?

And the title of the movie only makes sense at the end of it. It was delightful.

8/10 accidentally destroyed airplanes in the fight against terror