As the title suggests, Severed: Forest of the Dead takes the outbreak story out of the city and into the more remote location of a forest community.
We learn right away that a logging company has secretly begun bio-engineering experiments on trees to improve growth without the knowledge of the loggers, who are going about their work cutting down trees. The third group in play is environmental protesters who have been known to sabotage the equipment.
While using a chainsaw, something malfunctions and worker gets cut, allowing some bio-engineered sap to seep into the wound, turning the worker into the walking dead. Quickly turned, he starts tearing into his crew, which begins the greater outbreak. Days go by and, once the corporate office realizes they have lost contact with the camp, the owner sends his son and heir apparent out to check on the crews and resolve any issues that has come about.
Right out of the gate I will say this movie got extra points from me for not doing the tired “zombie comedy” thing and actually putting effort into making a real horror movie. While I love the humor found in ZombieLand and Shaun of the Dead, there are dozens of zombie movies that become a failed parody in a disastrous attempt at being entertaining without a good story to build around. I am not sure what it is about the slew of modern zombie movies that are still left in behind using the 80’s B movie horror comedy template, but I look forward to the day when the trend dies and we must all hope it never rises again.
I apologize for that joke. Moving on now.
What I liked most about this movie is it never tried to do too much. For the most part it stayed within a small area in the forest ,not getting out of control with military tanks rolling in or huge swarms randomly appearing. All zombies were from various work crews or protestors in the surrounding area, which added to the “trapped in nature” feeling the story was trying to impress upon viewers. However there were a few times the movie flashed back to the corporate offices that I thought should have been left out as it didn’t add to much to the story.
Severed obviously had a very small budget, yet could teach many higher budgets movies about how to put effort into making realistic looking zombies and how to hire capable actors who can impress the shambling movements of zombie. Now I am not saying anyone here should have won an academy award, but it was certainly high quality for an indie movie and you can tell they put a lot of work into it.
The story, for the most part, was what it should have been. A solid survivors vs. zombies story set against each other in a remote location thereby isolated. Sadly for viewers the story started wobbling when the survivors came across a separate logging camp owned by another company. The logging camp was fenced in and run by a power hungry crew leader who seemingly devised a game where someone handling a gun had to face off against a random set of zombies who were let into the fencing area. The story was seemingly trying to create a Lord of the Flies-type environment; to survive in a world turned upside down. This simply did not make much sense especially when you realize they were a few days into this outbreak. Society will obviously fall apart after an outbreak, but given the timeline this just came across as poor script writing and directing. If you have a group of men in their 20’s to 50’s ,they will all be forming up to try to make it back home to their families with whatever tools they can grab as weapons trying to push past the undead. They won’t camp out behind a chain link fence inventing games to shoot zombies while drinking.
Overall I enjoyed this while acknowledging my low expectations of zombie films and it was nice to see a serious and gory attempt at a zombie movie.