Severance finds the employees of an international arms manufacturer setting off on a teambuilding retreat. When a fallen tree blocks the path to their destination, the workers are forced to take an unexpected detour. The path choose soon leads to peril as a mysterious masked man targets the staffers.
Christopher Smith (Creep) co-wrote the screenplay and served as the director of this 2006 horror flick. Severance is full of ridiculous violence. It also features loads of wry British humor that is sure to please fans of Shaun of the Dead.
The script is noteworthy for being full of wit and punchy one-liners. It also impressively breaks away from the prototypical slasher film conventions. It’s not immediately apparent who will die or in what order. The lack of predictability and sharp wit make for a refreshing and oft hilarious audience experience.
In addition to co-penning a fantastic script, Smith also proved himself as a more than competent director with this slasher-comedy. His understanding of comedic timing and willingness to avoid retreading tired clichés is commendable. That coupled with Smith’s genuine desire to surprise his audience make Severance a superior effort.
Severance is not only witty and smartly scripted, it also features a dynamic cast of characters that are impossible not to like. Laura Harris (The Faculty) is delightful as Maggie. Her character is put through hell and yet she never backs down or resorts to making idiotic decisions. She stays one step ahead of her tormentors and uses her limited resources to her advantage.
Danny Dyer (Doghouse) is also great as Steve. He provides a lot of the comic relief but still displays a modicum of depth. All of the supporting cast members are clever, witty, and well developed. There are no throwaway characters in Severance. Christopher Smith is quite adept at brining horror film characters out of the two-dimensional world in which they so often live. He is skilled at making his audience identify with the protagonists in his films and this is no exception.
Not only are the characters likable, they are also unpredictable. One in particular proves to be completely selfless and altruistic in a way I would have never expected. Moreover, all of the key players stand out for doing more than just walking into a series of predictable stereotypes.
Severance walks the line between horror and comedy quite well. It’s funnier than it is scary. But it is very, very funny. The jokes are executed with pitch-perfect timing. Clever editing and a deliberate avoidance of going for the obvious punch line make the gags much more rewarding for the viewer. This film brilliantly satirizes the inner office dynamic that will be familiar to anyone that has ever worked for a corporation. However, the flick still manages to give the characters their own unique personality.
The pacing is swift. Severance constantly alternates between well-timed comedy and perfectly executed carnage. There is no downtime in between. The viewer is constantly entertained.
The film’s body count is pretty high. The deaths that transpire throughout the picture are plenty bloody and rely heavily on practical effects. The deaths are as inventive as they are brutal. There are plenty of ways to kill off a character in a horror film and Severance isn’t afraid to explore as many of them as possible.
My main criticism of the film is that some of the humor is a bit too crude. There are a couple of jokes that the movie would have been much better off without. However, that’s a fairly minor complaint about a damn good film.
Severance is a well-written and keenly directed. It is a gory good time. The flick is rife with laughs and brilliantly crafted effects. Since it didn’t receive a lot of fanfare for its US release, a lot of horror fans seem to have overlooked this one. So if you haven’t seen it yet, give Severance a chance. You will most certainly enjoy it.
Director(s): Christopher Smith
Writer(s): Christopher Smith, James Moran
Stars: Laura Harris, Danny Dyer
Studio/ Production Co: Qwerty Films
Length: 95 Minutes