Monday, May 30, 2011

FI: Severance

United Kingdom, 2006
Directed by Christopher Smith

Severance tries to walk the thin line between horror and comedy without tipping its hand too much one way or the other. While it seems to have similar aims to Shaun of the Dead or other recent horror-comedies, it's not nearly as funny or dramatically involving as Shaun, as neither its sense of humor nor the depth of its characterizations approaches the level of Edgar Wright's film. I think it's slightly more effective as a horror/stalk-and-slash picture than as a vehicle for humor—elements of genre parody notwithstanding—but I understand that not everyone will feel the same way.

The story is about a team of salespeople working for a global defense contractor who head out to a lodge in the Hungarian forest on a team-building retreat. After a downed tree blocks the route and the coach driver refuses to take a detour, the incompetent manager Richard (Black Adder's Tim McInnerny) insists that the team hike to the lodge on foot. Of course, they end up at a very different sort of lodge, and begin to be stalked and killed by a group of evil men. Why? We're never 100% sure. A couple of plausible stories—one about war criminals and another about violent asylum dwellers, both wronged by the team's parent company—are floated about, but neither is conclusively proven. All that matters is that there are bad people with knives, guns, and fire.

The characters, including drugged-out oik Steve (Danny Dyer), safety-conscious Gordon (Andy Nyman) and object-of-desire Maggie (Laura Harris), are pretty thinly sketched, and even though James Moran's script does a good job pairing them off in interesting ways, their lack of depth ultimately makes it hard to care beyond the usual identification you get from a standard slasher. Still, Severance's pervasive sense of menace and its plentiful gore can be absorbing and scary enough to keep you engaged. If you can avoid comparing it to its more mature genre-mates, and assume the slightly laddish tone of its humor is part of the parody, it's a perfectly entertaining picture.

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