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Since 2008, Mail Order Zombie has covered zombie movies, zombie movie music, post-apocalyptic and zombie literature, zombie comics, zombie games, zombie operas, etc. Weekly, Brother D brings the reviews, and Miss Bren joins him for the weekly Feedback Discussion. Zombie news from around the world is covered in the Zombie Beat, and interviews with zombie media makers round out the show.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This movie needs zombies: 'Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America'

There's art house and then there's art school, and Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America is neither. Tony Stone is the writer/director behind the movie, and I have to be completely honest – I don’t quite understand what his point was. I mean, it’s not like the movie’s incomprehensible. I get it. It’s not hard to follow. Vikings show up on the shores of Greenland, a couple of them get left behind, and . . . heavy metal plays in the background.

Severed Ways isn’t necessarily an experimental movie – there’s a semblance of narrative here. And it’s easy to follow, especially since we have Chapter title cards guiding us through the film. Why we have Chapter marks in the movie itself I don’t quite understand, but in case you’re having trouble following along, or if you a writer/director who’s having a hard time connecting story sequences, I suppose they’re helpful.

I'd like to mention what I liked about the movie. It looks great. The minimalist production design succeeds in making the woods and coast of modern-day Maine look like the 11th century Greenland the Vikings would have encountered. And the cinematography is fantastic. I fully expected to see someone’s sleeve dart in front of the camera to wipe the mist off the lens because everything had a nice, foggy and desaturated look that helped to transform this independent production that under most circumstances would be nearly unwatchable into something that was at least interesting to view.

Just turn down the volume. The movie’s gimmick . . . er, soundtrack is made up of songs from Popol Vuh, Judas Priest and Burzum. I understand the connection between Vikings and Norwegian death metal, as tenuous as the connection might be, but to drop Morbid Angel’s 'Desolate Ways' into a movie that the filmmakers are obviously trying to present in a somewhat realistic sense didn’t seem to make sense. Stone takes great care in presenting how real, or as the DVD cover tells us, how “gritty” the Vikings’ reality was, but the inclusion of this music made the movie feel like a long experimental music video.

Whether Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America is a long music video or a gritty historical epic, including a scene in which one of the characters defecates and then wipes himself with the available foliage does nothing to make the movie interesting or worth your time.