Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Remember the good ol' days of low-budget horror, when filmmakers would sneak political or social commentary in between the bloodshed and nekkid breasts? If you do, then you'll likely be just as disappointed as I was in 2005's SEVERED: FOREST OF THE DEAD, a film that could've easily been the backdrop for a sly environmental statement instead of being just another redo of George Romero's greatest hits.

Directed by Carl Bassai, this straight-to-DVD cheesefest deals with a logging crew who cut down a copse of genetically-engineered trees; contact with the trees' blood-like sap turns them into zombies (and no, this isn't the worst premise for a movie I've ever heard, but it comes pretty damn close; I suppose making the trees themselves zombies wouldn't make for a good movie, either). Those loggers not infected, or eaten, must hole up with a nearby group of eco-activists in order to survive, turning the film into a woods-bound NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

All in all, the action in SEVERED isn't really that bad, it's just routine. I do wish Bassai had taken advantage of his natural surroundings to create real fear; this movie could've taken place at the beach, or in a Wal-Mart parking lot, or the moon, and still been the exact same movie. Trapping the loggers and the tree-huggers together is a good way to generate tension and conflict, but Bassai settles on having its characters spew rhetoric back and forth (so much for any environmental commentary). Also, I wish there'd been more development of the story, instead of the third-rate DAY OF THE DEAD copy that makes up the last third of the picture. (Really now, can we stop with the good guys vs. the military storylines? Yes, it worked in DAY, and it worked in Brian Keene's THE RISING, but can you please move on to something else?)

If SEVERED does have any marks of distinction, it'd be the creative ways it dispatches its zombies, utilizing its logging-camp setting to good effect (i.e., crushing zombies under a pile of logs, taking them out with bulldozers, etc.). But personally I'd rather see a better story, or stronger direction, or more competent acting--things that this film simply can't offer.

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