Severance (2006) – By Nic Brown

 There is nothing like a company retreat into the woods. You and your co-workers stay in a luxury cabin with good food & drink and the opportunity to relax. Unfortunately for a group of sales executives and managers from a successful international arms company, their retreat is nothing like that. Lost in the backwoods of Eastern Europe while looking for their luxury cabin, the group finds a lodge in the woods that they believe is the one they are traveling to. Although the accommodations aren’t first class, the group reluctantly tries to make a go of it. What they don’t know is that the lodge they are at is actually controlled by a group of mercenary killers who are stalking them with plans to kill them for sport. Welcome to director Christopher Smith’s SEVERANCE.

Dark comedy and seriously bloody violence mix throughout the film which starts out feeling like THE OFFICE (the original British version more than its light-hearted American counterpart) but quickly moves into the realm of films like DELIVERANCE or THE HILLS HAVE EYES as the unsuspecting white collar workers find their lives on the line while being hunted by psychotic killers. Never boring, SEVERANCE has the unique ability to make it difficult for audiences to know whether to laugh or wince at some of the scenes of violence. The blending of horror and humor is not a new idea, but it is given a fresh twist with the more subtle humor of SEVERANCE as opposed to that found in recent films such as HATCHET.

Regrettably, it is the movie’s black comedy that may be its undoing. Unlike another recent import from the UK, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, SEVERANCE’S humorous undertones are not as obvious in the film’s title or marketing. This left the film without a solid base to draw from as genre fans seem unable to classify the movie as either horror or comedy. Released in the UK in 2006 the film had a short art house run in the US in 2007, but was unable to duplicate the success of other imports of the same nature. This is unfortunate because SEVERANCE is a good film. While some of the gore and violence are extreme, the humor and witty dialogue coupled with solid performances by the ensemble cast, work together to create an experience that will appeal to viewers who would normally not enjoy the film’s rougher elements. Although the entire cast is excellent, Danny Dyer stands out as Steve, the somewhat burned out, drug using staff member who spends a good portion of the film in a haze of mushroom induced stupidity that is well worth catching. So if you’re in the mood for something different, and can stomach a few heads rolling and body parts flying, then check out Christopher Smith’s SEVERANCE and make sure you don’t take that short cut through the Romanian woods!