With a pre-credits slaughter sequence featuring two semi-naked Euro-birds trapped in a bear pit, Severance wastes no time exploding off the blocks. Classical music tinkering on the soundtrack, the enticing/horrifying intro sets the bar for the film’s inventive, controlled-chaos script – packed with larger-than-life (but all too recognisable) characters and, uh, gutsy humour that keep it going despite the occasional stumble. Another plus is Danny Dyer, wisely sticking to being Danny Dyer.

Anyone who’s ever been on a team-building expedition (“I can’t spell success without ‘u’ ”) will cringe/ laugh as Tim McInnerny’s idiot boss frogmarches his office geek (Andy Nyman), graduate posho (nostril-flaring Toby Stephens), hot fox (24’s Laura Harris), right-on bore (Claudie Blakley), sweet square (Babou Ceesay) and cheeky-chappie layabout (Dyer) off to Hungary for a weekend of outdoor activities. Broad-stroked backstories ensue, along with plenty of gags – both visual and verbal, clever and (gleefully) stupid – before Creep writer/director Chris Smith gets down to the blood-letting.

It’s here that things move up another gear, the tension ratcheting and the giggles turning to strangled gurgles as Severance veers between cruel gallows humour and gore. One of the characters quite literally loses his footing. Another loses his head. All are subjected to wince-inducing levels of distress, either carking it in horribly inventive ways or emerging bruised, battered and very, very bloodied.


Yet amid this who-dies-next? marathon, the spikes of comedy just keep on popping up: the accidental blowing-up of a passing 747, a body part being wedged into a fridge, dirty fights that resemble British hooligans on a lager-drenched holiday. And through it all, Dyer just keeps on getting better, his wideboy schtick working brilliantly in among the blood and guts until he closes this demented, destined-for-cult-status picture with a belter of a final line. As horror-comedies go, Severance is a cut above.


Brutally funny and frequently brilliant, this is simply, as we've said elsewhere, The Office meets Deliverance. With a bear trap.

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User Reviews

    • cockney01

      Jan 11th 2010, 13:14


      In a decade that has produced more successful British horror movies since the golden days of Hammer, it’s quite easy to overlook some of the real gems that are out there. While ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘28 Days Later’ and ‘The Descent’ may, rightly or wrongly, be the movies that get name checked most often, but when comparing with the current US or European markets then ‘Severance’ can quite justifiably be counted amongst some of the best. ‘Severance’ tells the story of a group of office workers from a defence company going on a team-building weekend somewhere in Eastern Europe. Led by office manager Richard (Tim McInnerny) and office creep Gordon (Andy Nyman), the group – consisting of dope smoking ladies man Steve (Danny Dyer), cocky Harris (Toby Stephens), office eye-candy Maggie (Laura Harris), right-on Jill (Claudie Blakley) and reliable Billy (Babou Ceesay) – the group manage to fall out with their coach driver, who doesn’t speak a word of English and throws them off the coach. Forced to walk to their ‘luxury lodge’ in the dense European forest, the group find what seems to be a near-derelict building in the middle of nowhere. Finding a welcome note inside they assume that this must be the place and continue to unpack. At the dinner table Harris tells a story about how the ‘lodge’ used to be a prison for the criminally insane around the time of World War I, and that a division of the company they work for was sent in to exterminate the prisoners but they mistakenly left one alive who is seeking revenge on anybody who works for the company. Jill dismisses his version as rubbish and claims the story is more up-to-date, and that the ‘lodge’ was home to Russian soldiers who went mad and ended up going on a killing spree. Ever the company man, Richard dismisses the stories as nonsense and everybody goes to bed. In the night, Jill sees a masked face at the window and cries for help, forcing Richard to rethink the whole weekend. The next day he sends Jill and Harris off to try and get a phone signal so they can contact the coach company, while everybody else has a game of paintball. Harris and Jill find the coach abandoned not far from where they left it and the driver laying next to it, gutted like a fish, whilst during the paintball game Steve shoots somebody several times, yet none of the other team has any paint on them. So who else is out there, and what do they want? Taking its influences from a range of movies, ‘Severance’ is not only gory and funny, but also very clever. Like most British comedy movies, there is a certain kind of humour running throughout, and although it isn’t likely to alienate anybody who doesn’t get British humour, it does have a feeling of being ‘one of our own’, much like ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’ or even ‘The Full Monty’. And like those movies there is some real joy to be had trying to wok out what movies they’re paying homage to in certain scenes. There are also some real laugh out loud moments, particularly any scenes involving the magnificent Tim McInnerny as the cliché-prone office manager and Andy Nyman as the annoying-but-we-all-know-somebody-like-him Gordon, although the rest of the cast (even Danny Dyer!) are all solid, too. If there is a criticism to be made, it is that the movie does sort of stumble to a climax rather than go out with a bang. After such an escalating build-up it just seems to fizzle out, as if the writers didn’t quite know how to wrap it all up, and although it does let the movie down slightly, the first hour is such a well written and acted piece of horror/comedy that it can be forgiven. Overall, this is a funny, gory, cleverly written and well acted British horror/comedy that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the bigger horror movies of the past few years. Miles better than recent tosh like ‘Wrong Turn 3’ and ‘The Hills Have Eyes 2’, it may suffer from a lacklustre finale but given the quality of the first hour, it’s a movie that deserves to be seen by a fairly wide audience.

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