Thursday, August 03, 2006

Reviews, links, and FrightFest screening

More Severance reviews starting to filter through - people have been asking if I'm nervous, and the answer is no, because we get shown all the reviews ahead of time, so I know the score: most places really like it, a couple weren't bothered, and a couple didn't like it. But the majority are all for it. Which is nice, and also unusual for horror, apparently. So:

Variety review - yes, *that* Variety. It's a great review, and my name is listed properly in the credits, twice. It's an odd read though, because Variety don't like using the words "the" or "a". So you get sentences like "Casual way in which special effects are thrown at the viewer pays dividends as the story progresses". Anyway, it's in the print version this week too, page 21 if you want to have a flick through in the newsagent (it's 5 or 6 quid otherwise). review - my absolute favourite review. These are proper horror blokes, mind, so they're the people I really wanted to like it. It's a great fun review, picking up on all the stuff we jammed into the movie, and I'm really chuffed that they "got" the movie so much. They can eat my brains any time. Check out their Zombie Club reviews, they're classics - I was invited to my first one last night, and it was massively entertaining.

The trailer is showing up on lots of sites too, like FilmRot and AICN, which is cool. Also, apparently it's showing in the cinemas too - my mate Phil says someone he knows saw it before Stay Alive, the "moderate horror" movie showing at the moment. Keep an eye out for it. The TV ads should be running by the end of next week, they're due 2 weeks before the release date, so watch out for those too.

Tickets are now available for the special FrightFest preview screening at the Odeon West End on 24th August - they're a tenner from the Odeon website. Proceeds go to the Teenage Cancer Trust, so even if you hate horror movies, do it for the kids.

Been mainly posting Severance news, as I've spent most of my time working away on Curfew, which is going very well, and several other outlines, and meeting lots of people, some about things I'm working on, some about possible new things. It's a really exciting time, several things look like they might be about to take off, so keep your fingers crossed.

Oh, and send someone a personalised voice message from Samuel L. Jackson, on this Snakes on a Plane site. You know it makes sense.

Update: Here's another one, a review and interview with Toby Stephens. Cheers to A_A from the comments below.


james henry said...

So far, seems to be good reviews from the die-hard horror groupies, which is the important thing....

soulmining said...

I picked up the latest Unlimited magazine (the crap free one) at our local Cineworld this evening and they've got a full page ad for Severance in there! Was hoping to see the trailer before the film (Miami Vice - disappointing) but didn't get it.

Good luck with all these new projects, I'm sure you'll succeed - in the words of that infamous Japanese detective:

"I can feel it in my urine!"

Anonymous said...

Another one


David Bishop said...

Congratulations on the cracking review from Variety, although it has a sad lack of in-house jargon. Here was I hoping characters would try to ankle their predicament to avoid getting nixed by hicks from stix in your flick.

James Moran said...

Cheers everyone - A_A, I added that link in, thanks for that, it's a good one. David - true, but at least they called Chris the "helmer". I was hoping Empire would call it "an entertaining slice of hokum", but they didn't like it enough. Curses!

Anonymous said...

I want to hang out with you now.

james henry said...



James Moran said...

Ooh, is the new issue out? I wasn't expecting it till the 8th August. Yeah, Total Film were very nice to us, gave us a great review and there should be a big article with pics too. If it's out in the shops I shall pimp it mightily.

Anonymous said...


Geoffrey Macnab in London 10 August 2006

AdTech Ad

Dir: Christopher Smith. UK. 2006. 95mins.

The latest in a seemingly endless cycle of new British horror films, Christopher Smith�s Severance is slick, funny and determinedly superficial and derivative. The screenplay (co-written by Smith and James Moran) is leavened with sub-Viz humour, satirical asides about office politics and the arms trade, and self-parodic jokes. Smith, who earned plaudits for his debut horror feature Creep, has assembled a capable cast and orchestrates the bloodletting with a certain flair.

Nonetheless, there is a sense throughout of a talented director running up hard against a dead end. Just as his protagonists - first seen fleeing through the woods - struggle to get away from the killers, so the film-makers face an equally tough fight to escape genre cliches.

Severance has several clear thematic overlaps with rival horror picture, Wilderness, which will also be released theatrically in the UK in August. This is yet another yarn about an ill-assorted group of Brits stuck in the woods and being preyed on by a homicidal bogeyman. Both movies received UK Film Council backing and both have �respectable� production companies behind them (Wildness was made by Ecosse while Severance comes from Michael Kuhn�s Qwerty).

On one level, the British horror renaissance is encouraging. Young directors are making fast-moving, visually striking, lowish budget films with an obvious commercial appeal, and not just at home (witness the current success in the US of The Descent). Nonetheless, it is hard to see how this renaissance can continue unless film-makers come up with ideas at least marginally more original than sticking Brits alone in the woods with killers on their tracks.

Severance's theatrical prospects seem rosy, although it and Wilderness may may cannibalise each other�s audiences in the UK in the short term. That said, at preview screenings Smith's comic shocker has been eliciting wild enthusiasm from some of the UK's mass market 'male' magazines, and the fact that it has secured a 15 rating is bound to increase its reach among the all-important teen audience. Ancillary should also be good.

Beyond home � it played in the Piazza Grande at Locarno - it was one of the few British titles in the Cannes market in May to capture buyers� imaginations, and US rights were recently snapped up by Magnolia. It is far more slickly made than Wilderness (part of whose appeal was its engaging amateurishness) and is also genuinely witty in parts. But its joshing, sarcastic humour ultimately risks becoming one of its biggest problems: when Smith is playing for laughs, it is impossible to feel sympathy for the benighted characters as they are decapitated, burned alive or flayed.

The earliest scenes are the best. A coach full of disgruntled British office workers are driving into the bear-filled Hungarian woods for a team-building weekend. They�re from Palisade Defence, an international arms dealing firm. The manager Richard (played with engaging pomposity by Tim McInnerny) is given to making Ricky Gervais-like speeches. �We need to take onwership of the weekend... I can�t spell success without you,� he tells his team as he leads them to a godforsaken lodge in the middle of nowhere.

There are some genuinely humorous touches as the group interacts. The office renegade Steve (Danny Dyer) is more interested in magic mushrooms and spliffs than team building. The chief salesman (Toby Stephens in supercilious mode) can�t hide his contempt for his boss. It�s when they discover a gold-capped tooth in a meat pie that the team members begin to suspect that something is seriously amiss. Smith uses music and sound editing very inventively and even throws in a dream sequence and an enjoyable, Murnau-style silent movie spoof.

The visual gags don�t abate (for instance, Steve trying to wedge a severed leg into a tiny fridge or a severed head briefly contemplating life without its body), but the longer the film goes on, the more scrappy and unpleasant it becomes. The tongue in cheek humour can�t hide the essential sadism of the endeavour. Nor does the plotting really stack up. The balaclava-clad bogeymen in the woods seem to be on leave from the Chechen or Balkan war. We�re never quite clear whether they�re killing for the sake of it or if they really do have a grievance against the arms dealers from the West.

The shock tactics grow increasingly numbing and repetitive and, as in so many recent British horror films, there is an almost complete lack of emotional depth. Nor does Severance have that sense of the uncanny that made (for example) Neil Marshall�s The Descent seem like more than just standard genre fare.

By the final reel, all subtlety has disappeared and we�re simply left with some Brits and a couple of Hungarian escort girls on the run from some Eastern European rent-a-maniacs.

Production companies
Qwerty Films
UK Film Council
Isle Of Man Film
N1 European Film Produktions
Dan Films Production

International sales
HanWay Films

UK distribution

Executive producers
Michael Kuhn
Steve Christian
Malcolm Ritchie
Jill Tandy

Jason Newmark

James Moran

Edward R E Wild

Stuart Gazzard

Production design
John Frankish

Christian Henson

Main cast
Danny Dyer
Laura Harris
Tim McInnerny
Toby Stephens

James Moran said...

Thanks for that - still not sure if the reviewer actually liked it or not, didn't sound like he was too impressed.

By the way, please try and avoid posting spoiler reviews or details, there are some things I don't want to reveal about the plot! Cheers...