As a rule horror fans don't make good horror movies (you only have to sit through HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES to see that), but every rule has its exception. Sometime contributor to this site, Jacob Helgren, clearly knows his stuff - and is a grade A slasher movie fan to boot - but luckily for us he's working hard to give back some of that love to the genre by writing, producing and directing his own movies - something many of us wish we could but few ever achieve. Even better for us, on the strength of this, his first slasher short, he's clearly a talent to watch.
Like many classic genre movies, SEVERED LIVES is based around an urban legend - of a murder past. A group of college students, led by Jocelyn (Mary Alice Watkins), decide to base film their senior thesis project documentary on the twenty-year old killings of two sorority girls on campus. "We can't have Crow walking around killing co-eds without a mask!", notes one of the group. Crow was the killer of yore, and to bring him 'alive' they create a truly spooky mask with long black hair (think nods to RING and the creepy pig-faced vision in SAW (2004)). Needless to say, that mask appears in some extracurricular activities!
To complicate matters each of the students hides a secret that could threaten the film's production and, even set a chain of events in motion that could threaten their lives. Despite warnings that someone does not want the film to be made, the group push on with the project. As skeletons fall out of the closet, they soon realise that the project unraveling is the least of their worries as a production meeting descends into a bloodbath when they face a very deadly critic.
Jacob cut his teeth as a script writer - and it shows. SEVERED LIVES has the kind of sparkling and witty dialogue that most low budget slashfests could only dream of. However, it's the overall quality of the production which is most admirable. Whilst the micro budget is painfully obvious in some aspects (the film's greatest enemy is the occasionally muffled sound), he has created wonders with what he's got - especially some truly creative camera angles and snappy editing. He also knows what makes a slasher movie work: likeable and believable characters; a smattering of well executed gore; exciting cat and mouse theatrics; a creepy killer; and always keeping the audience guessing - right down to who exactly will turn out to be the final girl and who is the killer!
His love of the subgenre is also evident, but never becomes overly intrusive. There are nods to classic early 80s slasher flicks, with a hot tub tribute to HALLOWEEN II (1981), and the killer trying to break through a door (well, too many to mention!). Jacob's own slasher movie collection also plays an enviable backdrop through a good number of the shots! The tribute to the subgenre's golden age is also further evident by a nifty 80'ish synth score.
I haven't rated this with the usual five star rating, as that's reserved for full-length films. However, all-in-all, Jacob Helgren has managed to pack more slasher movie fun and mayhem into SEVERED LIVES' 45 minute running time than most hacks could pack into a dozen DTV snoozefests. Check it out!
Find out more about SEVERED LIVES (and how you can watch it) here.
female:7 / male:1
1) Female stabbed
2) Female killed in the back of car
3) Female garroted
4) Male killed (method unseen)
5) Female stabbed in neck
6) Female impaled on spike
7) Female shot in the head
8) Female dies form stab wound in the stomach