Occupational hazards

Pub date May 22, 2007
WriterCheryl Eddy
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

You think your job sucks? Imagine working as an office drone for multinational corporation Palisade Defence, whose slogan is "We’re hitting a home run for freedom and a time-out for terror!" In Christopher Smith’s black comedy Severance, a team-building weekend (shades of The Office) in Eastern Europe (shades of Hostel) goes gruesomely, satirically awry (shades of Shaun of the Dead). It’s not as scary as last year’s The Descent (nor as funny as Shaun), but Severance is yet another indication that the UK horror invasion ain’t ebbing anytime soon.

Severance is clever, but it’s not really that different from a million other bloodthirsty flicks: a bickering ensemble gets lost in the wilderness, where someone or something starts picking off shrieking victims one by one. It’s refreshing to see grown-ups rather than teens pasted into this scenario, and Smith adds political jabs by making the heavily armed, woods-lurking baddies monsters of Palisade’s own weapons-corp making.

Of course, encountering a rogue militia is hardly the outcome our hapless city slickers expect from their forced journey of togetherness. The group members, who all kind of hate each other to begin with, include an uptight snob (Toby Stephens), a kiss ass (Andy Nyman), a no-nonsense blond (Laura Harris), an idiot boss (Tim McInnerny), and a horny stoner (Danny Dyer). The joke is that there’s never a better time to work as a team than when everyone’s life is in danger — yet unity still proves difficult for these yups in the woods.

But I know what you’re wondering, horror fiend: how repulsively creative are the death scenes? Early on, a comically gross encounter with a bear trap foreshadows unfortunate ends met in booby-trapped trees. Smith, who cowrote with James Moran, also gives us a final girl with enough tenacity to fight back against physical opponents and the indignity of being put on hold when calling for help. With its familiar plot points, Severance may not hit a home run for horror — but there’s an undeniably fun energy propelling all those severed limbs.


Opens Fri/25 in Bay Area theaters

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