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STUDIO: Magnolia Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
• Deleted scenes
• Slow burn – mini scene of church burning
• Scenic ambience
We’re taking the ‘king’ out of Viking in this laborious tale of two dudes walking back home!
Starring Fiore Tedesco, Tony Stone, David Perry and a bunch of other people speaking Old Norse and/or Native American
Written and directed by Tony Stone
The pair later went on to kill a member of a rival Viking tribe to prove they were more ‘viking’ than him.
Two Viking warriors are stranded when their landing party leaves after an attack by Natives in what is now Newfoundland. The two set out through the woods, intent on walking home. Along the way, they are hunted by skraelings (Native Americans) and learn something about Christianity, though what the movie is attempting to tell us is lost among all the damn walking.
I like walking. No, really, I do. I walk everywhere. Hell, I live in New Jersey, the state with the largest density of roads in the country, and still I walk everywhere. It’s a pleasing activity. It’s healthy and it helps me think.
But that doesn’t mean I want to see other people walking. No, like your furry fetish, it’s not something you need to show the world. Hell, for all of the things I like about walking, it’s even more boring than golf, and that’s pretty fucking boring. So when you make a damn near 2 hour movie (about Vikings. Vikings!), of which about half of that is scenes of the two characters walking, I’m upset. Nor is it a deep, philosophical walk, where the two characters discuss matters of the heart and soul, no, it’s an extended camping trip, as if someone had a camera back in the 11th century and some guys in Norway found the tape and added a black metal soundtrack.
As noted above, I am sure the makers of Severed Ways are trying to tell me something. It hints at deeper meanings, the slow creeping of Christianity through their lands, their own parallel creeping/invasion of the new world, but it doesn’t develop any of it. It’s more content to show the day to day goings on of two capable men stranded in the wilderness, and while that is good for say, Bear Grylls, it does not make for a compelling narrative story. But if I need to know how to make a semi-permanent lean-to, which leaves to wipe my ass with or how to burn down a pre-Norman invasion church, then Severed Ways might as well be called a documentary.
The movie only briefly lets us inside the minds of the characters, whose names are never directly given. We’ll just call them blondie and fireface, should the need arise. I can see complexity in them, they have their regrets and fears, but the actors are not accomplished enough to convey their feelings through helmets, hair and a dizzying camera style. We care about them because there’s only three other people in the entire movie, four if you count the priest they kill because they’re bigoted assholes. Nor is there a clear resolution. Look, I don’t need things spelled out for me, I get that fireface was learning about Christianity from his new priest friend, but does that get him anything? Does anyone get anything they want? In life, no, of course not. Nobody gets shit. That’s why it’s life. But Severed Ways is not life, and nor is its writer talented enough to make us care that nothing happens. Maybe if he had his characters say more than five lines total, I could be onboard with a film with so unsatisfying a conclusion,
but alas, I cannot.
While the film fumbles what could be a remarkable adventure (something you don’t necessarily need a budget for), I must give extreme props to the cinematography. It’s shot…surreal. Like an old experimental music video, the kind you’d only find in the shops lining Times Square back in the 80s. It’s clearly video, but the film-makers do not see that as a disadvantage. The colors are rich and the shots are unique, we don’t even see the characters’ faces until about ten minutes in (something that bothered me at the time, but I thoroughly enjoy in hindsight). The images of lone men trekking through the beautiful forest, while not making for good storytelling, keep you involved long after the story has stalled.
But better than the cinematography is the music. The DVD cover boasts that this has a ‘throbbing black metal soundtrack’ and I cannot dispute that claim. The music is the best part, with songs from Judas Priest, Dimmu Borgir, Morbid Angel and Burzum. The main theme, or what I’m calling the main theme because it’s featured most, is appropriate. It’s synthy, ominous, like you’re lost in the woods. The screaming, super death metal is kept to a minimum, usually only exacerbating already violent acts. Given the lack of dialogue, the camerawork, the movie is a music video!
Severed Ways just can’t focus. When it should be telling us about the characters, it’s off filming one of them shitting (yes, in detail). It boasts epic action scenes, but you’d be better off watching ‘Outlander’ or ‘Pathfinder’ for that. The main action is nothing more than a pseudo-standoff between our characters and the Native who tracks them. Chock full of walking, animal close ups, animal cruelty and the forceful rape of a man by a woman, Severed Ways is, well, very severed. The unique technical presentation cannot overcome the realistic, but very synopsis-esque plot the movie tells. Maybe if you cut out a good 20 minutes of walking, it’d feel tighter, but like our characters, we simply feel lost in the woods.
The film is in 5.1 and 2.35 wide-screen for you aficianados and the look and feel is one of the best things going for it. The DVD includes some…bizarre additions that, at the very least, you can say you don’t often see. For instance, it features a six minute, slowed down video of the church burning scene and the many attempts they made at trying to get the thing to light. Weird. Also, there are four ‘ambience’ screens, vistas of fire, earth, wind and water that can make for a good background when you’re doing yoga, or praying to Odin, whichever.
There are two deleted scenes which, will nice to look at (as the entire film is, in its own way) add nothing and were thankfully dropped. As well as two trailers for the film which make it look way more awesome than it actually ends up being.