Severance (2006)

Severance (2006)

Another bloody office outing

When Hollywood decides to make a film based on the killer dolls of Chucky and Tiffany, their long-lost son, Glen travels there to see if he can find his parents. He eventually resurrects them but is horrified when Chucky wants him to follow in his murderous footsteps, whilst Tiffany is more worried with the actress portraying her in the film.

 

Ever since the release of Shaun of the Dead, nearly every British horror-comedy gets unfairly labelled with the tag of “the best one horror-comedy since Shaun of the Dead” and pretty much all have failed miserably to get anywhere near it’s genius. Severance is arguably the closest anyone has come. Mixing horror and comedy is a tough ask and usually one side gets a little more focus and therefore weakens the impact of the other. Here the balance is just about right – a mix of crazy bad taste comedy, some truly horrific violence and plenty of comic interplay and witty one-liners between the cast. The film works better as a dark comedy though and there are some memorable sight gags including the best use of a mini-freezer you’ll ever see. It’s gory slapstick at its best and definitely one of this country’s better exports of recent years. More famous offerings like The Descent may receive all of the plaudits and headlines but there is a steady stream of reasonable low budget horrors invading foreign markets. British horror has never been as strong as this for years, since the prime days of Hammer in fact. Severance is leading the charge with severed head and leg in hand.

Severance does take a little time to click into gear though and the opening half certainly goes through the traditional motions on more than one occasion as we’re introduced to the characters and the setting. After a promising opening scene featuring two semi-naked European chicks trapped in a bear pit, I became a little worried at times that the film was heading nowhere fast. Thankfully I was proven wrong later and the opening was just a taste of what is to come (in fact the film goes full circle to reveal why two semi-naked European chicks are trapped in a bear pit). It doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest, even when the film gets nasty later on. The humour is on board to relieve tension and make the situation seem a little less deadly than it is. There are no scares to be had unless it’s your first horror film and a lot of the standard slasher clichés are here ready to be unleashed. But they’re not unleashed in the usual manner.

The script seems derivative at first and the characters one-dimensional (smarmy boss, token asshole, nerd, stoner, etc). But as the film moves along, each cookie-cutter character develops a personality and the film doesn’t stay on the same well-worn slasher track, throwing in plenty of curveballs (and oddballs too). It all makes for a refreshing change and credit must go to the writers for being able to switch the tone of the film quite easily without upsetting the balance.

The cast is excellent. Toby Stephens, more used to playing serious roles, gets his teeth into the token ‘office asshole’ who everyone hates. Tim McInnerny, more famous from his Blackadder days, is a right hoot as the smarmy manager of the group who is constantly putting his foot in it by saying the wrong things. Danny Dyer plays himself again – the Cockney chav with sharp wit, an eye for the ladies and basic all-round ‘geezer.’ He plays to his strengths here which is being himself as opposed to acting as someone else. In fact every one of the main actors is decent in their roles and they all bring their characters to life. Thankfully the script does all of the characters justice and it’s nice to be able to root for a group of people for a change. Granted not all of them deserve to live but the film does a great job of making us care for most of them so that when some shocking deaths occur, you can’t help but feel a little sad and gutted.

The deaths come through a variety of unique means including bear traps and flamethrowers. It’s brutal, over-the-top at times and quite gory as you’ll see heads getting severed and you also get a good close-up of the damage done by the aforementioned bear trap. Without the earlier humour to lighten the mood, you’d wonder why the film is as nasty as it is and it could quite easily stand on it’s own as a serious horror. The film even manages to throw in the couple of semi-naked European chicks which comes totally out of left field but at least shows that the director knows his target audience well enough to pamper them.

 

If you’ve got a warped sense of comedy or like your bad taste in big doses then Severance is definitely one to watch. Kudos to the writers for making everything click into place. Not perfect by a mile but I’ll take Severance over any mainstream American remake, sequel or J-horror re-imagining any day of the week.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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