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Severance: Special Edition (2006)
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Details At A Glance
Main Menu Audio & Animation-Animated Menus with Sound
Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Severance
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Being Danny Dwyer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Danny Fight Rehearsal
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Not So Special Effects
Featurette-Making Of-The Genesis of Severance
Featurette-Making Of-Crashing a Coach
Deleted Scenes-Deleted Scenes
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
It can be pretty much guaranteed that any previously unheard-of horror film winning high praise and acclaim from film festivals is going to be poor, if not completely unwatchable. Recent horror fare Saw, Wolf Creek, Hatchet and The Signal all fell well short of expectation after nailing several awards in prestigious film festivals by audiences and juries who aren't educated or familiar with similar genre pictures, and thus hail pretty much anything that isn't Friday the Thirteenth as being of Academy standard. (Weep for genuine modern classics like The Descent, The Host and The Fog being woefully ignored.) And thus we come to highly acclaimed British horror-comedy Severance, a film that tries very hard to be in the same vein as "classic" Shaun of the Dead but falls short in every regard: not much of a comedy, not much of a horror film, not much of anything except a passable waste of time with a few funny moments and a lot more unpleasant ones.
Severance follows several unlikeable office workers on a trip into the uncharted British outback as a teambuilding exercise and escape from the cubicle that soon finds Murphy's Law in full effect: their ride breaks down, forcing them to trek through the woods to a Texas Chain Saw Massacre style abode with a dark history and human teeth in the food, and then they're attacked by Hostel extras armed to the teeth, who have them trapped as part of their own teambuilding exercise. Along the way, find obvious comedy mined from drug abuse mishaps and the usual happy racism/sexism, supplemented with an out-of-place and unsubtle political subtext about the sale and misuse of weapons (our office workers are from a arms manufacturer; could their attackers be using their own weapons against them? Golly!).
The film's best sequence involves the accidental misuse of an oversized rocket launcher that ends in a disaster reminiscent of 9/11 - it should be no surprised that this scene feels completely out of place, like it belongs in another movie. Severance is a complete mess, and it spends a lot of time being increasingly dull; it cribs from other better films, and not just classics in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre vein, but also recent "torture porn" fare; attempts at black humour are rarely funny, typically descending into cruelty, and the balance between horror and comedy never works. But its worst sin is that every character is a blatant and irritating stereotype, all of who do incredibly stupid things that make us want them to die rather than develop any sympathy, and the plot points have no logical or rational flow. Without anyone to root for or anything to stay watching for, the film is an unrewarding trial that will leave most horror fans disappointed.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
The video is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, NOT the original 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.
Severance was very obviously shot on high-def video and suffers on DVD. This is a very soft transfer, often overexposed with dull colours and poor dark levels, plagued with ugly low level noise in dimly lit darker scenes.
Despite a reasonable bitrate averaging at 6.9Mbs and without any film artefacts or interlacing, the film doesn't look great at all. There's a layer of grit over everything that could be intentional - the film's final half-hour reflects this in atmosphere - but unfortunately I fear technical incompetence is to blame rather than an attempt to establish mood.
There are no subtitles.
Video Ratings Summary
The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo).
Severance lacks depth from both of its soundtracks, without a great deal of surround or bass. Although everything is perfectly audible, there's little immersion and not a lot of rear speaker usage to fully surround us in the "scary" goings-on. Although every element of the soundtrack is distinguishable from the other, the mixing leaves the 5.1 essentially the same as the 2.0, which is always disappointing.
The soundtrack features original music by Christian Henson as well as some popular songs (including a painful rip of We'll Meet Again from Dr. Strangelove) none of which is memorable. I cannot help but think a more painfully upbeat soundtrack like that of recent atrocity The Cottage may have aided the humour in this film - oh well, not to worry!
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
Animated Menus with Sound The menus here feature film score over clips from the film and that nifty decapitated body from the DVD cover.
The Making of Severance (33:48) What can I say about this irritating, overlong making-of featurette? At least it's shorter than the actual film. It's extremely frustrating listening to the actors describing their characters because, unfortunately, they don't have any: they're unpleasant exaggerated stereotypes that are also deeply unlikeable and thus impossible to sympathise with. Why would you want to hear more about them? The entire cast and crew pitches in with admiration for the director, and then everyone weighs in with ill-informed ideas about horror films and what makes them great. Painful. Fragments of interviews prove to be just as uninformative as mind numbing, and the entire featurette is annoying, uninteresting and endless. Towards the end, someone actually mentions Akira Kurosawa in reference to this film. I'm not joking. Ugh. The video quality, although colourful and lacking artefacts, is extremely painfully interlaced, presented in 1.85:1 that isn't 16x9 enhanced.
Being Danny Dwyer (5:18) This puff-piece mixes interview footage with various onset B-roll that, well, doesn't really promote the actor. Everyone praises him, but he comes off pretty poorly; oh, Danny, look at your wackiness as you cuss and flash us and insult/threaten the crew! In the same ugly interlaced 1.85:1 that isn't 16x9 enhanced.
Danny Fight Rehearsal (2:02) This 1.33:1 footage of Danny Dwyer rehearsing the fight sequence is interlaced to hell and completely worthless - why would anyone be interested in this? At least it's not long.
The Not So Special Effects (4:52) Director Christopher Smith spends most of his time complaining about the special effects crew in this short featurette highlighting the incompetence of the people working on the film, complete with all the flubbed footage where the effects failed and everyone has a tantrum. Once again, there's nothing here of any interest to anyone - a featurette like this is normally an expose on how all the effects of a film are achieved, rather than a nasty piece attacking people who worked on the film. In ugly 1.85:1 that isn't 16x9 enhanced.
The Genesis of Severance (4:55) Incompetent awful screenwriter James Moran sounds off on the development of Severance, with director Christopher Smith praising his own work and development of the script - particularly the development of the characters, and also the "clever underlying themes" - and other cast and crew cutting in to applaud the "genius" of the film. It's interesting to see that the incredibly nervous looking Moran seems disappointed at how his film changed across production - the title makes much more sense in his original vision, it seems, and I think I would have preferred to have seen that. Smith never stops patting himself on the back and makes me want to punch him in the face. In ugly 1.85:1 that isn't 16x9 enhanced.
Crashing a Coach (8:11) Director Christopher Smith never stops whining in these featurettes - nothing ever seems to be good enough, especially after he berates his crew to get a full-sized coach in one of the more difficult sequences in the film rather than a small one, and then finds it extremely difficult to get it to flip. The way he talks to his crew is deplorable and I'm left wondering if these were intentionally edited to make him look like a jerk. Regardless, this short-yet-still-too-long featurette talks with his holiness as well as the cast and crew and shows how the stunt was performed. The stunt, while impressive in this B-roll, looks boring and flaccid in the film, which shouldn't surprise anyone following along with this thing.
Deleted Scenes (11:18) Just over eleven minutes of deleted scenes include mostly failed attempts at comedy (with the added bonus of incomplete and borderline unwatchable CG) plus a really weak, obvious promotional video for the fake arms company the main characters work for and pathetic scenes of "character development" that really nail home how irritating these characters are. The video quality is terrible, mostly broken digital video that drops frames occasionally.1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement.
Outtakes (1:36) We finish up the package with a minute and a half of outtakes: characters stumbling, flubbed lines, profanity, frustration, aggression, it really looks like it was godawful to work on this film. The unpleasant atmosphere carries into all of these special features, and even this one can't escape the negative feelings - not good when you're trying to make people laugh. The video quality is the same as the deleted scenes, and it honestly looks worse than something you'd see on YouTube. Enough. 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
The R1 and R4 packages for this film are quite similar, but as this is a UK release there's much better in the way of R2 if you have to own every little special feature. From the R1, our R4 misses out on:
- Original Aspect Ratio
- Audio commentary by director Christopher Smith, writer James Moran, production designer John Frankish and actors Danny Dyer, Tim McInnerny, Babou Ceesay and Andy Nyman.
- Additional Footage Of Crashing A Coach (2:00)
- Palisade corporate video Featurette (1:40)
- Behind the Scenes Featurette (12:30)
- Alternate Ending Storyboard
- Intro Sequence Animatic (2:57)
- Bonus Previews
The best available edition of the film is R2 Germany, which features 4 additional featurettes on making the film, as well as bonus trailers and interviews (and German language options in addition to the English). If you're a fan, you're best hunting this down.
As a deeply involved horror fan, I can't find a lot to like about Severance: it's sloppy, uneven and unrewarding.
The video and audio transfers are both very average.
The plentiful extras here are not enjoyable to watch, but do provide solid theories on why the film ended up the way it did.
© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using Component output|
Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
|Audio Decoder||Logitech 5500 THX.
Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
|Amplification||Logitech 5500 THX|
|Speakers||Logitech 5500 THX|
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