(In French, On Cable TV, September 2019) Sometimes, the only thing to do is to make a mental note to try again later. On objective grounds, I can recognize that Severance is a bit better than most horror movies of its ilk—the premise (in which a corporate retreat deep in the woods falls prey to murderous psychopaths) is interesting, the writing is a bit better than the norm, the direction is good, and there’s enough comedy to avoid complete nihilism. (Ah, that silent film sequence!) On the other hand, I felt almost completely uninvolved during most of the film—perhaps caused by watching too many horror movies in a row, perhaps exasperated by so many other horror movies butchering its entire cast of character, perhaps simply not in the right mood. It doesn’t help that the comedy pales a bit compared to the gory horror—I usually like comedy far more than horror, and any movie that indulges in the tired psycho-with-a-knife stuff better compensate with a lot of better material. There are a few good scenes—I would have like far more of those ludicrously funny moments such as the “stars and stripes” rocket-launcher sequence, or having more characters survive the ordeal. The film would have been more successful as a spoof rather than a true horror film sparing no amount of gore. But that’s not what writer-director Christopher Smith was going for, and so Severance is what it is.
(On DVD, August 2017) I’m always intrigued by movies that progressively gain attention by sheer word of mouth, and Triangle is one of those low-budget films that have steadily gained in popularity since its release. It regularly gets mentioned in mind-twisting movie recommendation discussions, can boast of a surprisingly healthy number of IMDB votes and sports at least half a dozen web pages explaining its ending. But does the hype exceed the material? As it turns out… Triangle is actually worth a look. As a group of acquaintances go yachting, they encounter mysterious phenomena and then an abandoned cruise liner. Once aboard, things get stranger and bloodier as a woman is attacked by a mysterious figure … and then turns the tables on her assailant. There’s a lean and mean rhythm to the film that works in its favour, and not just as genre entertainment—it’s a film that moves ahead quickly, which is often essential in the kind of closed-loop subgenre it has chosen. Perhaps the best thing about the film are the shock images (Those pendants! Those victims!) that suddenly suggest a vertiginously more complex film, ready to launch a thousand theories about what is happening. (Here’s my contribution: Three angles.) It gets into quite the mind-twister, and even though no theory explains everything, the film is sympathetic enough that it doesn’t really matter if there isn’t a perfect explanation. (And I write this as someone who prefers perfect explanations.) Melissa George is very good as the lead character as she becomes more and more damaged by the events of the film. Pre-stardom Liam Hemsworth briefly shows up in a minor role, but the star of the film is writer/director Christopher Smith’s taut screenplay and effective directing. I’m not sure if Triangle qualifies as a hidden gem when it’s still gaining word-of-mouth recommendations, but it certainly qualifies as a memorable film and one that deserves a look, especially for those jaded cinephiles searching for something unusual.