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Movie Mom

Severance

posted by jmiller
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug content and some sexuality/nudity.
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:Brief rear nudity
Alcohol/Drugs:Hallucinogenic mushrooms, characters smoking cigarettes
Violence/Scariness:Extensive and explicit violence, including peril, gore, torture, and bodily harm
Diversity Issues:Bad guys all Eastern European, good guys all British and American
Movie Release Date:2007
C
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug content and some sexuality/nudity.
Profanity: Some strong language
Nudity/Sex: Brief rear nudity
Alcohol/Drugs: Hallucinogenic mushrooms, characters smoking cigarettes
Violence/Scariness: Extensive and explicit violence, including peril, gore, torture, and bodily harm
Diversity Issues: Bad guys all Eastern European, good guys all British and American
Movie Release Date: 2007

Severance is a quirky yet compellingly gory tale of
a few great characters begrudgingly forced to spend a weekend
together. And then they are hunted down, suffer grizzly deaths, and
are, for the most part, never heard from again. Writer/director
Christopher Smith (Creep) has never, apparently, had much sympathy for
those who get sentimental and teary-eyed when lamenting the question
of why bad things happen to good people.


Filmed with a great appreciation for atmosphere and undeniable skill
in sound editing, Severance introduces us to the sales division of
weapons company Palisade Defense as they embark upon a company retreat
to Eastern Europe. On the retreat is Jill (Claudie Blakley): odd,
endearing and intelligent; Gordon (Andy Nyman): bestowed with
indefatigable good spirits; Steve (Danny Dyer): immature and harmless;
and a few others whose characters are difficult to watch be snuffed
out in the name of the ever-more-popular “quirky horror” genre.


Smith takes his characters and floods their retreat with
some of the most gag-inducing horror scenes, resulting in a
dreadfulness that makes one wonder why these great characters couldn’t
live long enough to star in a funny, original, imaginative and
enjoyable film. Severance might be funny (at times), original and
imaginative, but until watching likeable people suffer unspeakable
fates is enjoyable, it can hardly be labeled as such. The most
redeeming element, aside from the technical skills displayed in
filming, is the nagging suspicion that it’s better to have really
liked and lost than never to have liked at all.


And while watching the endearing troupe perform team-building
exercises would have been infinitely more fun, the horror is still
unquestionably effective. Whereas some comparable films tend to begin
in horrorland, that place where things are so ominous from the start
that being burned alive or suffering decapitation and loss of limb is
simply the “next step,” Severance starts in utter normality. The
anxiety stems from the loss of control felt in the smooth and speedy
progression from normal life (riding a rented bus with coworkers) to
horror-movie life (running from crazed killers, losing limbs, nursing
stab wounds, etc). It helps (if that’s the right word) that the
characters are highly believable; more importantly, however, is the
fact that the horror doesn’t grow from one or two hugely bad decisions
— instead it grows organically and almost imperceptibly from the
characters’ realistic ordinariness as they make decisions that don’t
seem so different from what the average person would do. The result is
a horror that could happen to even the best people, no matter how
clever, how rational, how likeable. And that, perhaps, is scarier than
anything else.


Parents should know that this film presents perverse and sickening
scenes, including but not limited to decapitation, explosion, torture,
and implied cannibalism. The killings are not censored, and a live
burning includes a sympathetic character splashed copiously with
gasoline while gagged and tied to a tree. There is also a scene where
a character’s leg is caught in a bear trap, and is severed in the
resulting struggle to free it. A character is shown chewing and
discussing hallucinogenic mushrooms in the very beginning, and the
language is mostly mild but gets heavy in isolated instances.


Families who see this film should discuss the ethical considerations
behind plot elements. The premise is that Palisades employees are
being hunted because their weapons were used to destroy a mental
hospital, and the escapees vowed to exact revenge. Parents might
discuss with teenaged children the ethical considerations of working
for a company that provides weapons. In the film, Jill speaks with
another character about her desire to build “human” land mines — ones
that do not cause such indiscriminate destruction. Parents might
discuss how creativity and ingenuity can be used to improve present
conditions. Because the images can be disturbing and terrible, parents
might also wish to have their children express common fears and
approach them logically, deciding which ones are reasonable and which
ones can only be reasonably expected in horror films.


Families who enjoy this film might also appreciate Eli Roth’s Cabin
Fever, in which five young friends meet blood-soaked tragedy in a
wooded cabin. For a film with more comedy and stylized gore, families
might enjoy Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.

Thanks to guest critic AB.

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