Wednesday, October 10, 2007

severance


So, just a few days ago on this very blog I was complaining about how hot it was in New York for October, and how disgusting it felt. Well, the next day it cooled down a bit and rained some, and now it's generally a bit cooler outsider. So, in the spirit of complaining about things and then getting what I want, today I'd like to complain that I've been looking for a job since like June, and it's been almost impossibly difficult. I may not be Mr. Super Cool Alpha Job Guy but, hey, I do have some decent experience and a master's degree, and I've been really focused on looking for jobs that are exactly withing my range of experience and education, and I've been sending out at least a resume a day, and in some cases alot more, for months and months. So what the fuck? It's job time, motherfuckers, throw something my way. Please? Well, whatever...

On the upside, last night's movie was really a pleasant surprise. "Severance" is a UK horror-comedy hybrid that opened overseas last year and had a brief theatrical run here earlier this year. It takes some pretty well-worn slasher flick cliches and does some original things with them, and while the mix of humor and horror isn't quite on the level of that other wonder UK import "Shaun of the Dead," it still has plenty in it to recommend.

Putting a twist on the familiar kids in the woods plot so familiar from so many horror flicks, "Severance" is about a group of 30-something employees of a UK-US weapons manufacturer who are sent off in a bus to do some team-building exercises in a cabin in the woods somewhere out in the Balkans (one character expresses his uncertainty as to whether they are in Hungary, Romania or elsewhere). They stumble upon the wrong cabin and find themselves besieged by a group of paramilitaries who seem intent on killing off the whole group possibly based on some decades old urban legend, and possibly for no reason at all.

The scenario is pretty simple but many of the ideas are not. "Severance" takes the basic idea of the slasher movie and puts it in a global context with very interesting sociopolitical undertones. The Balkan paramilitaries are using weapons manufactured by the UK-US arms manufacturer, in a sense the film's heroes have sealed their own fate by making weapons and putting them on the international market without much consideration as to where they're going or who they're going to (as the arms company's president says in a promotional video,"If you don't have them, THEY will."). There's also a sense of Western/Northen Europe and America's lack of understanding of the tumult of the Balkan nations- the characters in the film don't even know what country they're in. In fact, the paramilitary killers themselves seem to be part of no particular conflict, but rather are killing because that's what they do, that's all they know.

I liked that the characters were all reasonably intelligent adults instead of smarmy teenagers, and all of the cast members are quite good. The film's heroine winds up being the group's one American, Maggie, who's well-played by the extremely appealing Laura Harris, who I knew from the excellent short-lived series "Dead Like Me," and was also in Robert Rodriguez's "The Faculty." The rest of the cast is primarily English, and though I didn't recognize any of them, I really liked Andy Nyman as the geeky, overly cheery Gordon, who gets his leg chopped off in a bear trap and is given Ecstasy in the absence of any legitimate painkillers. The male hero is played by Danny Dyer, who must be something of a celeb in Englang, because there are numerous extras focused on him on the extras of the DVD. Actually all the extras kind of make him look like an asshole, and his character is kind of funny but not entirely appealing, so minus one point for the UK, I guess. "Severance" also has a character named Harris (like "Bad Dreams," and in Laura Harris, an actress named Harris, also like "Bad Dreams," which had the killer Harris and actor Harris Yulin), who's like the self-confident, handsome one (and a little bit of an asshole, though he doesn't really live long enough to do or say anything too terribly obnoxious, so my supreme vanity can't help but feel like the filmmakers obviously had me in mind when naming this character), so that's pretty cool (FYI- he's the one with the severed head in the poster above). And there's a brief cameo by a bear, which is always pretty awesome. Bears are awesome.

Actually, though the first half has quite a few laughs and this was generally marketed as a comedy, the last part of the film gets exceedingly grim as the characters' situation becomes increasingly desperate, which works, because the humor helps build the viewer's allegiance with the characters, and we do feel something for them when they're killed or in danger. Some of the humor is quite intelligent and subtle as well (one character talks about making "humane land mines"). In all, this is a well above-average film and certainly worth the discriminating horror viewer's time. blah blah blah

Stay scary!

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