Christopher Smith’s British, comedy-horror movie Severance is advertised as The Office meets Deliverance. I’m not really a fan of this mix of genres, as it’s almost impossible to get the mix right – the comedy dilutes the horror and vice versa. So as I expected, Severance is not as funny as the prior and not as scary as the latter, but it still manages to entertain.
Seven colleagues who work for a weapons company called Palisade Defence are rewarded with a team building getaway weekend in the wilds of Eastern Europe. The team is made up of the boss Richard (Tim McInnerny), sexy girl Maggie (Laura Harris), stoner Steve (Danny Dyer), optimistic morale booster Gordon (Andy Nyman), smart guy Billy (Babou Ceesay), pacifist Jill (Claudie Blakley), and handsome Harris (Toby Stevens).
The film begins with a flash-forward of big boss, George (David Gilliam) and two foreign dolly birds running through the woodland. It’s a pretty camp scene, hammed up to ‘B’ movie standards, but the film doesn’t have the look of a ‘B’ movie – it’s too glossy – so we know the ‘ham’ must be intentional.
Smith then brings us back to join our team of work mates on the coach. After encountering a road block on their way to their luxury lodge and being abandoned by their coach driver, they decide, after some argument, to walk the rest of the way. The banter on route, while not hilarious, is amusing, and helps to set the characters. When they arrive at the lodge what they find is far from luxury, but with no choice but to use the grotty, old building, they go inside and make themselves at home. It isn’t long before they notice they are not alone. Surrounded by man traps and mines, the team is soon under attack by a gang of psychos with a beef against Palisade Defence . . . and staff cuts are inevitable.
Whilst Severance isn’t as gory as some horror movies, it does have its moments, and it’s clear that Smith knows what horror audiences are looking for: The severed limb here, the odd decapitation there. He serves up all the things you would hope for, but because a lot of it is done in a comedic way, it isn’t actually scary. Smith also adds in all the expected ingredients, even a couple of bare-breasted women running through the woodland, but he does this with an invisible wink to the camera and it made me smile. He even manages to find room for a pastiche of an old silent film.
Tim McInnerny, who I loved in The Black Adder series, is well cast as the stuffed-shirt boss. I’d liked Andy Nyman in the Big Brother based comedy horror Dead Set, and he didn’t disappoint in Severance either. Whilst I was expecting to find Danny Dyer irritating, I was surprised to find his character quite likable and funny. All round, I think the casting was excellent.
Severance is short of laugh-out-loud moments, but is mildly amusing throughout. It probably won’t make you jump, or scare you, but it will entertain you if you don’t expect too much. It’s almost impossible to mix comedy with horror and come out with belly laughs and nightmares, so with that being said: I think Smith did a good job with the blending.