R, 1 hr. 36 min. Directed by: Christopher Smith. Release Date: September 1, 2006. DVD Release Date: September 18, 2007.
This movie had been in my Netflix queue for months, probably since February or March, before I finally decided to stream it today. It caught my eye after I watched and reviewed Wilderness, an Irish-made horror flick that I thought was remarkably good, even if it was more suspenseful than scary. While I don’t know much about the UK horror film biz, I thought this was a very good example of what the tea-and-crumpet set can put forward when the right folks come together.
I had a bit of a laugh at myself created by my inattention to the dual possibility indicated by the title. I figured this might be a movie wherein someone gets fired and then “goes postal” after locking in all his or her former co-workers. I actually saw a movie like that on USA once, a long time ago, where a contractor gets fired and then shows up just before quitting time and locks everyone in so he could kill them one by one. It freaked me out. In this case “severance” refers to like, having things severed from your body.
Initially, the set-up struck me as more than a little like Wrong Turn: people wander into an area they shouldn’t (an area that I will now reference exclusively as “the killzone”). There are traps, set ups, and an isolated rural area that, for some inexplicable reason, is set in the middle of BFE in what could be Romania, Hungary, or Serbia and where (if you’re interested) there may or may not be bears. I don’t know why that’s important, but it was like a 10-minute block of dialogue, so there was probably a point other than creating a bit of humor when a bear walks across the trail behind our ragtag little band.
The cast was good, but a distraction in two cases. I spent the ENTIRE movie wondering where I’d seen Toby Stephens and Laura Harris before. It took me a trip to IMDB, but I finally have my answer, if you’re interested (scroll down if you’re not): Toby Harris was the westernized face of the Korean bad guy in Die Another Day, and Laura Harris replaced Rebecca Gayheart on Dead Like Me, possibly in the wake of the latter’s unfortunate appearance in a home, um, adult film. I could make a joke about the Noxema girl and dirt, but I won’t. Really.
While this didn’t scare me, it had me mesmerized. I liked that each victim dies in a different (and fairly vicious way). I like the twist with the killer, because just when I thought everyone was safe… BAM! But I was left with a couple of questions, which I thought the movie hinted at, but never came out and answered. Why were these people being hunted? I get the whole defense contractor thing, but why did this particular antagonist feel the need to set up a killzone and get rampagey? Also, why did the killer speak Russian? My year of Russian is more than a decade out of practice, but even I understood about 25% of what I heard the killer say. I’ve heard Hungarian, Romanian, and Serbian spoken aloud, and nada, so I’m sure I’m not mistaking the language.
I have to say I didn’t love the politics here. Movies that talk about the unethical practices of defense contractors always point the finger at (mostly) American and (some) UK companies. No one seems to mention all the wonderful warlords, “freedom fighters,” and dictators that French, Russian, and Chinese weapon manufacturers have armed in the last couple of decades. I for one would take their stance more seriously if it wasn’t slanted against (granted) the two largest suppliers of weapons, but those two actually have some standards about who they’ll supply… and the three latter sources don't seem to be all that picky about who they sell to. Just sayin’.
Political rant ended, I’d recommend this for a bit of fun. Another inventive killer from a UK source, which makes me think I should be watching British horror more often.