First things first… The Severing is anything but a normal, formulaic movie with a clearly defined plot, character development and dialog, steady logic lines and lots of predictable and familiar points to ride along with. No, this movie is surely not your routine popcorn flick by any means. What it is however, is something captivating, mesmerizing and surprisingly emotional.
Producer Mark Pellington delivers a dark, brooding world of dimly lit, cold and dark emptiness with sets reminiscent of the SAW movies in their worn out industrial basement aesthetic. Mr. Pellington has a very deep background in creating captivating and thought provoking imagery. He has created music videos for such top performers such as Nine Inch Nails, U2, Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters and many, many others. Of particular note, who can forget the stunning images for Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’ video which Mark created and won four MTV awards in 1993 for Best Director and Video Of The Year. He has also worked on and/or made cameo appearances in well known movies including The Mothman Prophecies, Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire.
I must say that the cinematography is a shining star here. As a filmmaker myself, creative and thoughtful camera work always makes a big impact to me. Mostly all the scenes in The Severing are presented in slightly slow motion which adds to the surreal, dream-like quality of the motion as does the easy constant energy and motion of the handheld camera work. The strategic use of lighting and focus, or lack of, is handled to great effect. For example when there are rays of sunlight shining through a window, it is overexposed and juxtaposed against the cold and empty darkness of the harsh, hard basement rooms where the scenes take place to underline the separation of the two worlds.
The performers are incredibly talented, and flexible dancers who cast a similarly fitting look of a dark existence while being nearly naked save for minimal coverings. The rest of their bodies are roughly colored in gray, black and red greasepaint. They look altered or tarnished by their surroundings while still existing as these incredibly beautiful beings underneath the layers of whatever has attached to their exterior. The grace and elegance of their motions at times convey immense beauty while at other times, their unnerving contortions conjure up unease and fear.
The imagery is immediately striking. As the film moves through the first few minutes the color palette and overall feel of the visuals seems to become its own character. The same can be said of the droning electronic score which punctuates and guides the viewer along this black river with appropriate force and subtlety perfectly fitting the scenes.
A major element that needs to be noted is the lack of dialog. Aside from occasional subtle and brief voice overs, the rest of the story is told by the body language of the performers and the beautiful camera work and score. There are occasional text prompts suggesting this or that, but I found these to be almost like bumpers to gently nudge the viewer’s perception of a scene in a particular direction, or open up a level of introspection.
So, back to the popcorn flick thing… This is the type of movie that demands your full attention to appreciate it. Being an interpretive – and I use that word here heavily – project, I can imagine this film would impact any given viewer differently from the next. There is so much symbolism for the inner struggles of love, hate, apathy, fear, dread, sex, contact, communication, loss, loneliness, ugliness, beauty and hope. It did not take me long to find the rhythm of The Severing at which point as a viewer, I began to see shades of my own thoughts in the actions and message of the characters. Even without substantial dialog, the immersive experience of a dark viewing room and quality ear buds make a connection to the message.
Once again, this is quite a different type of movie which may sit very differently between viewers depending on taste and even patience. The emphasis on imagery and interpretive dance performance may get long in the tooth for some while others will be longing for more after the roughly 70 minute run time. However, the beauty of the movie as a whole is worth a look.
Terry is founder of Black Dog Filmz based in Florida and creator of the award winning ‘Harlow’s Haunt’ movie. He has been involved with creative filmmaking, movies, music videos and commercial projects for more than 20 years as a tech, drone and specialized small camera systems professional. A lifelong horror fan, Terry combines the behind-the-camera elements with creative and editorial writing to support filmmakers and fans everywhere. Terry has written for such national publications as Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Drone News and hosted the popular Romero Pictures Indie Brigade Drone Cav podcast centered on aerial cinematography and various product and content reviews.