Severance asks the
tongue-in-cheek question -- if you take a cheesy horror movie and add a
whole bunch of respected British actors (mostly recognizable but none of them exactly household
names) and a whole load of attitude and gallows humor -- do you still come
out with a cheesy slasher film?
Surprisingly, no, you
don't -- at least not necessarily. If you take Severance seriously as a movie, you'll get
nowhere. It makes no sense. There are huge plot holes and gaps
of logic. Much of the story is predictable. The violence and
gore are way over the top.
However, thankfully the
makers of Severance didn't take themselves too seriously, so why
from a wonderfully simple premise. A group of employees of an
international arms dealer are in the midst of a corporate getaway deep in
the woods of Hungary to learn about teamwork. In a turn of events
which strains credulity (oh, let's face it, nearly all of the turns of
events in Severance strain credulity) the group is let off in
the middle of the woods and forced to hike miles to their "luxury resort."
They finally end up in a
cobwebby old compound in the woods -- but is this the resort?
Thus begins an unholy
marriage of The Office (the British version, natch...) and The
Hills Have Eyes.
turns out the place is owned by the company, so they all assume it is the
despite the fact that the place would have to take a few giant steps to make
it to a level of rustic. Records suggest that this place may have once
been an insane asylum -- and there may have been some kind of violent
incident there years before (the era-specific flashbacks to the possible
histories of the place, including a silent movie version and a groovy
psychedelic 60s take are some of the most mischievously fun moments here.).
Of course, being a horror
film, quickly mysterious sounds are emanating from the night, weird shapes
are being seen out in the woods and there are signs that they are being
watched. People start dying in dramatic manners.
Their leader (Tim McInnerny of Notting Hill) tries to keep up morale as the body count
mounts. Included in amongst them are a whole group of corporate types
-- the personable druggie (Danny Dyer of The Other Half), the hardened woman
(Laura Harris of 24 and Dead Like Me), the competent-but-selfish
take-charge guy (Toby Stephens of Die Another Day), the
nerdy girl (Claudie Blakley of Pride and Prejudice), the yes-man
(Andy Nyman of the up-coming Death at a Funeral), the horn-dog
partier (David Gilliam) and the shy-but-smart guy (Babou Ceesay).
Though they are playing
types, the fine acting and attention to detail in the script keep them from
being merely stereotypes. Late in the film, they run across a couple
of surprisingly stalwart (and often scantily dressed) local escorts (Juli
Drajkó and Judit Victor) to help them in their efforts to survive.
While none of the corporate characters are supposed to be exactly likable --
in fact in most ways all of them are just different variations of assholes
-- the characters resonate enough that we do care when they meet their
slightly cartoonish fates. (We never get to see enough of the call
girls -- except of course in the cleavage area -- to build up much feeling
about them one way or the other.)
In fact, the characters are
all killed and threatened in imaginative ways, many of these threats created
directly by the employers of the group -- including bear traps, land mines,
poisonous spiders, blow torches, submachine guns and machetes. There
is even a shockingly black comic moment about a guided missile.
The anti-Blair and
anti-American sentiment -- suggesting that these victims are on some level
just elitists who create killing machines without even trying to understand
the cultures and environments surrounding them -- is a little heavy-handed,
even when it is often legitimately earned. Also, in the end, it all
does seem to be, despite the best of intentions, a series of unnecessarily
gruesome set pieces.
Even graded on the curve of
its quirky sensibility, it's hard to exactly call Severance a very
good film. However, it is a better movie than it really has any right
to be. (5/07)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: May 24, 2007.