Severed (2005)
By: M. Walsh on November 22, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Force Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 96 minutes
The Movie
Director: Carl Bessai
Starring: JR Bourne, Sarah Lind, Paul Campbell, Sage Brocklebank, Patrick Gallager, Michael Teigen
Screenplay:Carl Bessai, Travis McDonald
Country: Canada
Severed is a "nothing" film. I need to establish this from the outset because, if I don't, the following synopsis may provoke some of you to rush out and hire the thing without first knowing what you're in for. Not that I'm trying to dissuade you from seeing it, of course. It certainly isn't the worst film I've seen. It isn't even the worst film I've seen this week. No, Severed is workmanlike, dull and nonsensical. If it were actually awful, this review would be a lot more fun to write. The word "mediocre" only has so many synonyms and I intend to use as many of them as I can before I'm done.

Ostensibly a zombie film without the zombies, Severed pits a handful of demographics, I mean people, against a hungry, hungry horde of "infected" monsters. How did this happen? It seems that, in a remote island forest somewhere in, I don't know, Canada, a forestry conglomerate has been accelerating tree growth through the use of an experimental chemical that doesn't stand a chance of being FDAA approved. The chemical, which is apparently unstable, resides in the sap of the trees just waiting to enter someone's blood stream and...well, we'll get to that in a moment. The workers on the island, quite apart from having to contend with trees that secrete genetically modified sap in quantities that would make Peter North cry for his mommy, are also at loggerheads (sorry) with a militant bunch of smelly, dirty environmentalists who, in an effort to put an end to the wholesale destruction of Canada's natural resources, have been spiking the trees. "Tree spiking" involves the hammering of a large, hardened nail into a tree trunk in the hope that it will damage the equipment used during harvesting, and hopefully damage the person wielding the equipment as well. This is, of course, exactly what happens.

The poor sap (sorry) who falls victim to the spike convulses violently before turning a strange green colour and screaming a lot. More people become infected by the chemical, and soon the island is overrun with these strange, slow-moving, somewhat laughable creatures. The film then follows an "Argue-Run-Die, Argue-Run-Die" formula as the workers and conservationists try to put there differences aside so they can work together and find a way to safety.

That's about it really. You could determine where Severed is heading without ever seeing a frame of footage. Nothing new or innovative occurs at any stage during the proceedings, right down to a third act that rips off Day of the Dead. This provided at least a few chuckles as the film had already been stealing most of its material from 28 Days Later, so the irony wasn't lost on me at all.

As for the "infected", they grunt and foam and look like they "really" want to start running. However, they simply move very slowly, and spastically, towards their prey while our old friend "the jittery-cam" makes them seem more threatening than they actually are. It is a pet hate of mine when a film's protagonists continue to flee from whatever creatures are hunting them, even though it has been well established that the creatures themselves can be beaten down and killed with very little effort. This poses the question: why bother running away? Why not just wait for the creatures to walk very slowly towards you and, once they arrive, cave in their skulls with a large piece of wood? Repeat as often as necessary until all the creatures are dead.

My problems with the "infected" do not end there. Those who are contaminated with the chemical can only be killed if their heads are removed from their bodies. I have no idea how this works because, remember, these creatures aren't actually zombies. They're just regular people who happen to have been infected. It's not like they're dead or anything, so I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of other ways to kill them. Like squashing them with logs. This actually happens, mind you, and the "infected" who fell victim to the logs looked pretty dead to me even though their heads were still intact. The "infected" are also cannibals. There isn't even an effort made to explain that one. Also, the infection can be spread through a bite, but not through gallons of infected blood spraying into people's mouths.

Director and co-writer Carl Bessai (who has a reasonable amount of work under his belt, none of which I have seen) appears to have seen fit to make the most pedestrian, uninspired and insignificant film that he could. Also, don't go looking for any sort of environmental message as the only one on offer is "don't mess with mother nature because a hippy might spike a tree and inadvertently turn someone into a non-zombie".

As I said before, Severed doesn't even have the good grace to be a terrible film, something that I could have written all sorts of knowing, witty stuff about. Dam you Severed! (sorry)
Shot on Hi-Definition DV and then post-processed the hell out of, Severed exhibits a lot of (unnatural) image grain. The transfer itself is actually very good with blacks appearing deep and rich. The level of detail is high throughout. Nothing much to complain about here.
The 5.1 mix, the only option available, is crisp, clean and aggressive. The actual sound design and music aren't particularly exciting, but the mix is solid and effective nonetheless.
Extra Features
A trailer for the film.
The Verdict
Stubbornly unexceptional on, literally, every level, Severed is nothing more than a passable way to spend 90 minutes while you're waiting for your clothes to dry. It makes very little sense, is boring, obvious, predictable and loaded with cliches. At its best the film is watchable. At its worst, Severed is redundant, self-important and pointless.
Movie Score
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