Severance (2006)

In terms of British horror comedies, Shaun Of The Dead is still top of the tree but by most peoples standards Severance comes a very, very close second. Directed by Christopher Smith (Creep, Triangle) it blends the two genres so seamlessly that it makes it look effortless.

Severance follows a group of weapons company (the fictional Pallisade Defence) employees who are taking part in a team-building holiday in Eastern Europe. While promised a luxury weekend away, they find themselves in a squalid building out in the middle of nowhere. Once the executive decision to leave and find somewhere more desirable, and considerably less creepy, to stay is made, two of the group venture to the road in order to find their bus driver. When they discover that he is now remarkably more dead than when they’d left him, they start to realise that they might be the target of some of the more vicious natives.

When he’s not presenting programmes about imprisoned criminals and the like, Danny Dyer also does a bit of acting. He’s yet to show a great range but Severance, like the more recent Doghouse, does a good job of showcasing his strengths. While I always get the impression that he’s playing a variation on himself, albeit with slightly fewer expletives, here, despite portraying something of a drug-addled loser, he manages to be wonderfully likeable and has perfect comedic timing. He is joined by a cast of diverse actors, all of whom completely embody their respective roles and create a fantastically believable team of co-workers. Laura Harris is fabulous as the feminine but ballsy heroine and Andy Nyman is brilliant as the geeky dogsbody, prepared for everything but useless in a crisis (worlds away from his obnoxious Dead Set persona). Most importantly though, they are always sympathetic.

A lot of the humour is actually very subtle and rather than creating a smattering of in-your-face, laugh-out-loud moments, a superbly tight script helps to generate a consistently amusing film. It’s a film that warrants multiple viewings as some of it is so well observed that you probably won’t catch it all the first time around.

Most horror-comedies concentrate on either the horror or the comedy aspects but it’s rare to find a movie that gives both genres an equal amount of care and attention and combines them as well as Severance does. So many scenes have the potential to make you simultaneously laugh and wince that it’s something of a rollercoaster ride. One scene in particular, involving a bear trap and a severed limb is equal parts absolute hilarity and grotesquely realistic gore. There are stabbings, beatings, shootings, burnings and a decapitation and while the brutality is never neglected, the laughs still manage to keep coming.

There’s not a lot more to say about Severance that hasn’t already been said a million times before but at the end of the day, it’s a film that should be seen by everyone who’s a fan of horror as well as everyone who’s a fan of comedy. It’s fun, funny, cruel, quick-witted, perfectly paced and brutally nasty. I defy you to only want to watch it once.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

One Comment on “Severance”

  1. Rag says:

    I never really thought of this as a horror/comedy film. It’s certainly not in the way ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is. To me it was more of a horror film with funny moments. And as such it worked REALLY well. It’s one of the best films I’d seen in quite a while. And that was a bit of a shock as it hadn’t hit my radar (it was another random DVD purchase).

    Agreed. Dyer is not much of an actor. But when he is cast right, he does it well. And in this film he was cast right. In fact, having seen him in so many films (essentially playing the same kind of role) I was a bit turned off by him being there. But that only lasted for a few minutes. It really didn’t take long to associate with the characters and get immersed in the plot.

    Unlike so many horror films, I could understand and believe why they were in the situation they were in. And the progression from the mundane to the ‘Oh my GOD!’ worked with only minor ‘willing suspension of disbelief’.

    Top movie. Well worth a watch!!!

    And just to prove I can be as anoraky as the house reviewers…

    [mild spoilers, but nothing plot related, follow]

    When Andy Nyman had his ‘pilled up’ scene, Chris Smith subtley sent Dyer over to give him some tips on how to act when ‘out of it’. To which Nyman politely told him where to go with the phrase ‘I’ve never had my foot cut off either. I’ll manage’.

    Any when Claudie Blakley was doused in petrol, it really was petrol. She stated that water would not create the same reaction.

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