Country : United Kingdom
Running Time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Pathé Distribution Ltd.
When the sales division of a multi-national weapons company engage in a weekend team-building exercise in the mountains of East Europe, they are set upon by ruthless and revenge-minded killers....
Directed by Christopher Smith. Written by James Moran and Christopher Smith. Starring Toby Stevens, Danny Dyer, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, Babbou Cessa and Laura Harris.
British Horror has undergone something of a renaissance in the last five years. Whilst Hollywood has been content to churn out pointless remakes and teenage friendly crap, across the Atlantic, British filmmakers have created a type of horror that is really pushing the genre forward. From Horror comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Dog Soldiers to full on fright feasts like The Descent and 28 Days Later, both commercially and critically, British directors have proven that you don’t need a Hollywood budget if you have creativity and a drive to get a film made. Into this mix comes Severance, the second film from Creep director Christopher Smith, and whilst that film was average at best, his latest is an excellent slice of horror which all slasher fans should check out.
The story is simple and effective: Multi-National weapons dealer 'Palisade Defence' sends it's European branch on a team building weekend deep in the forests of Eastern Europe. The group consists of a stuck up boss (Tim McInnerny), the office suck-up (Andy Nyman), the job hater (Toby Stevens), office beauty (Laura Harris), two good workers who don’t want to be on the trip (Babbou Cessay & Claudie Blakley) and general slacker/stoner, Steve (Danny Dyer). When the group arrive at their lodge, they find it to be a rundown, uninhabited dump. Through the course of the weekend they discover their rustic location isn’t the only problem as they are hunted down and killed in various gory ways. Is it a lone madman doing the killings or a crazed bunch of Ukrainian war criminals? It might even be both!
Many critics have dubbed this film the slasher version of Shaun of the Dead, which is both unfair and lazy. It is true that this film is very funny in the first half, this is due to the interaction between characters who are work colleges, but not friends, and who are being forced to go on the trip. Ofcourse there is many a witty line to be had. However there is a marked shift in tone when the horror kicks in, around half way into the film, when the ‘laughs’ become pitch black and many people will find them more horrific than funny. This shift is best exemplified in the scene where one of the team gets his leg caught in a bear trap. What starts out funny (they can’t get it off and it keeps snapping shut), turns to pure horror (they really can’t get it off). It is this shift in tone that will confuse many, but it will sit alright with anyone bored with the usual route these films often take. The film is more full blown horror than ‘Horror/comedy’, and is defiantly not for the faint hearted.
One of the reasons this film is not just another Friday The 13th clone, and also the reason the film becomes quite harrowing is characterisation. By investing a little personality into the characters, they have been made likable in there own ways. Unlike most slasher films, we really don’t want the cast to die. Take Tim McInnerny as the 'stuck-up boss', not a person who is endearing, but even he has lines and moments that prove he is just another person on the trip against his will, with people he works with, but doesn’t like. By making characterisation strong and through excellent acting across the board it is always a shock when someone dies, and die they do in some pretty gory ways (the camera following a large knife all the way into someone’s stomach being a particular gruesome moment, and it's in the pre-opening credit sequence!).
But the film's real trump card is actor Danny Dyer, who seems to be playing himself. Whether it’s taking drugs he bought at a gas station or his hilarious knife fight, he’s always around to stop the film becoming too serious and his final line in the film is an absolute belter. He is guaranteed to raise a smile and proves with a good script he is a good actor.
So in closing, definitely see Severance, which is out on DVD in Britain and is receiving a limited theatrical release in America. It takes a worn out genre and does something a bit different, and is all the better for it.
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Review by Chrisy Black, for Pitofhorror.com