Director: Christopher Smith (Creep)
Story: James Moran
Screenplay: James Moran, Christopher Smith
Producer: Jason Newmark
Starring: Toby Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay, Tim McInnerny, Laura Harris, Danny Dyer
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 96 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
     Though it's been done to lesser extent within the last 20 years, Edgar Wright popularized the horror/comedy film with his take on the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead; an original and zany comedy that worked extremely well for what it was trying to accomplish with fresh ideas and an acting duo with more chemistry than a high school science lab. With Severance, director Christopher Smith tries to expand upon this idea of splicing comedy and horror with the "slasher in the woods" comedy. Unfortunately, it's just a bit too juvenile and unfunny for it to measure up to Wright's piece. Still, it has enough clever editing, inventinve kill scenes and preposterousness to keep it rolling.

      The story is pretty simple. A group of co-workers from the corporate end of a military weapons manufacturing company are on a retreat in the forrested country-side to work on team building and unity. On the way, the road is blocked and the bus driver refuses to take a short cut. The passengers debark the bus and decide to walk to their welcoming lodge. After several miles they come to what they believe is their destination; a run-down, two story shack in the deep woods. After only one night's stay, they begin to become frightened from strange occurrences and reading stories of conspiracy theories and hauntings within the lodge. From here on out, it becomes a blistering gore fest as our protagonists are systematically slain by some unseen killer.

      What works well for the aforementioned Shaun of the Dead, is the way in which the characters interact and relate to one another so well. In Severance, there doesn't seem to be any really quality banter between the seven co-workers. Sure there are a couple of good one-liners here and there, but for the most part, it is totally inconceivable that these people actually work together; or the fact that they are even corporate workers at all. And what is supposed to be funny, like it might be on the hit TV show, "The Office," just is not. The only thing keeping me even mildly interested in the first thirty minutes of the film was the attractiveness of one of the leading women. And when the only thing going for a film is female aesthetics, we've got a problem.

      However, once the story starts to get moving and the blood begins to let out, things become much more exciting and the jokes work a little better. We're also able to focus on less and less of the main characters as they drop like flies, as in any other slasher picture. This helped to give a bit more depth to and keep my attention focussed on more specific characters as the film rolled on.

      So although the humor wasn't quite up to par for what I was expecting, there were some really clever moments from the director and editor that were surprising, unique and well thought out. These little moments sprinkled throughout the picture was the glue that kept me to my seat. Without them, I might've been very disappointed in the movie. For instance, you might hear a sound that leads you to believe it is coming from one object, when in fact, due to some clever editing, it is coming from something completely different that totally throws the audience for a loop. Although difficult to explain in writing, these moments are frequent enough that it should keep you interested if you're able to find Severance playing near you.

      What seems like it might be a highly original film, it really is nothing of the kind. It borrows heavily from several other pictures and while this isn't always necessarily a bad thing, it does detract from the picture a bit as the descriptions I've read of the film make it sound like it is highly imaginitive and fresh.

      Don't get me wrong, as I said, the film definitely has its moments. To descibe them in detail would be to give away surprises you wouldn't want to know about in advance. Just be prepared for some really sickeningly funny jokes. If your mind is warped enough, you'll probably really have a blast with some of the over-the-top antics displayed within the picture. If your mind appreciates a bit more juvenile or college-style humor, this is also probably the film for you. And for those of you looking for a political message, you'll even find a bit of that thrown in for good measure.

      So although it sounds like I completely ripped apart the film in the above paragraphs and I think it really pales in comparison to my expectations, I did have a good time with it. I laughed out loud at least five times and squirmed in my seat due to some squeaminshly, well thought-out kill scenes. There's even some campy B-movie humor moments that I'm always a fan of (Grind House anyone?). Walking out I decided my money was well spent and I might revisit the film one day on DVD. Although not a must see, Severance does have enough quality moments to warrant a viewing for those looking for an alternative to the everyday comedies we typically see Hollywood dish out.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site