Starring Laura Harris, Danny Dyer, and Tim McInnerny. Rated 18A.
In Severance’s promo material, the British horror-comedy is described as “The Office meets Deliverance”. It’s better defined, however, as a freaky cross between Friday the 13th and Hostel—with some serious chuckles thrown in. Discriminating horror fans should also note that it’s the most exhilarating fright flick to hit theatres since last year’s The Descent.
From its riveting opening scene, it’s clear that Severance is no brain-dead Scary Movie knockoff. Before the opening credits roll, a gushing tribute to the hunting-knife handiwork of Jason Vorhees is offered. We’re then introduced to eight employees of weapons manufacturer Palisade Defence as they travel to a team-building weekend in the mountains of Eastern Europe. The group includes your typical gaggle of victims to be—pot-smoking slacker Steve (Danny Dyer), ass-kissing nerd Gordon (Andy Nyman), cowardly manager Richard (Tim McInnerny), and curvaceous blond Maggie (Vancouver’s impressive Laura Harris)—all of whom partake in predictable coworker teasing. But after they get abandoned by their enraged Hungarian bus driver and hole up in a dilapidated, hostel-type dive, the twisted fun kicks in.
On the whole, Severance is about as subtle as a bear trap, but it’s the little things that make it work. When a big black spider crawls up the back of mousy Jill (Claudie Blakley), you foresee her freaking out when it comes a-creepin’ over her shoulder. Turns out Jill’s a huge fan of big black spiders, and the expected squishing turns into an affectionate, out-the-window release.
Director-cowriter Christopher Smith—who put Run Lola Run’s Franka Potente through her paces in 2005’s trapped-in-the-subway shocker Creep—has a riot with the film’s sociopolitical subtext. Palisades Defence is a morally bankrupt company that wantonly spreads high-tech weaponry around the globe, so of course its sales team should end up staring down the barrels of AK-47s. As in The Descent, though, it’s the brutal kill-or-be-killed scenes of hand-to-hand combat that really get you going. Who knew that anal knifing could be so freakin’ hilarious?