Severance - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Christopher Smith (director), James Moran (writer), John Frankish (production designer), Danny Dyer, Tim McInnerny, Babou Ceesay and Andy Nyman; Deleted scenes with optional commentary; Making of Severance featurette; Being Danny Dyer; Not so special effects; The Genesis of Severance; The Coach; Outtakes; The Bearpit animatics; Palisade corporate video; Alternate ending storyboard; UK theatrical trailer.
IT TAKES balls to juggle so many elements in one movie but Chris Smith proves himself up to the task in Severance, a bloodthirsty horror-comedy-cum-romantic-post-9/11 thriller that’s being pitched as The Office meets Deliverance.
The director appears to be revelling in the challenge and while Severance draws on countless horror classics and cliches, the parts have seldom been assembled as impressively as this.
Severance pretty much does everything it sets out to – it scares, it amuses, it gets your stomach churning and leaves your jaw on the floor, while simultaneously delivering a diverse set of characters that you’ll either love to hate or be hopelessly rooting for.
The film follows the fortunes of a small group of office workers from weapons company Palisade Defence who are on a team-building exercise deep in the mountains of Eastern Europe.
After being stranded by their coach driver, the team find themselves shacked up at a rundown concrete lodge and being stalked by a war-crazed group of maniacs with a thirst for blood and very painful death.
The office workers in question include a happy go-lucky everyman (Danny Dyer), a sexy American (Laura Harris), an office geek (Andy Nyman) and a posh graduate (Toby Stephens), as well as their awkward, bumbling boss (Tim McInnerny, who’s every bit as cringe-inducing as Ricky Gervais).
Smith’s movie kicks off with a pre-credits slaughter sequence that really sets the standard for the tension and blood-letting to follow.
It then changes pace slightly to introduce his characters, establish friendships and potential hostilities, before really going for it during the inevitable run for survival finale.
Yet while the scenario is certainly over-familiar, audiences will find themselves in a state of breathless excitement as Smith mixes genres with glee.
The nods to other horror movies – from Nosferatu to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – come thick and fast but seldom feel like rip-offs thanks to the director’s ability to put a different spin on them.
While the gallows humour is almost always spot-on, capably drawing plenty of uneasy laughs to lighten the tension.
The violence, when it comes, is as extreme and unflinching as last year’s The Descent but it’s somehow tempered by the black humour that surrounds it.
And the nods to current events are as audacious as they are pertinent, particularly given that Smith (and chief screenwriter James Moran) have chosen to make his victims weapons manufacturers.
Hell, the director even finds time to inject a little romance into proceedings, with Dyer and Harris building some nice “will they/won’t they” chemistry.
Severance isn’t entirely without criticism, of course, and Smith comes perilously close to losing control towards the end (especially in his controversial decision to include the blowing up of a 747 passenger plane as a passing sight gag).
His use of violence towards women in this and his debut feature, Creep, is also a concern.
But thanks to the sheer ballsiness of the screenplay and the dedication of the performers, all of whom excel, audiences should be having too much fun laughing and shrieking to hold too much against it.
Severance does, at the end of the day, provide a bloody good rollercoaster ride that’s capable of transcending its genre boundaries. It deserves a very wide audience.
Running time: 95mins