Severance (Review)

Tell me they aren’t promising ha-ha.

Here is a prime example where the movie poster pushes you one way and the actual film is another thing altogether.

Severance has several online posters available, all of which make this movie look like a Doghouse clone or Shaun of the Dead wannabe. This does the film a disservice, it is not a total waste of time like Doghouse, nor does it even try to be a Shaun of the Dead.

In fact it isn’t even a horror comedy like the marketing machine wants you to believe, it has a few jokes early on sure, and even has Moff from Human Traffic in a prime role, but at heart Severance is an effective little horror film with some good set pieces and pretty good scares.

Put another way, here are 4 British films that I have watched in the last 12 months. Each have elements of horror and comedy, and by my rough calcs these would be the proportions:

Film                                          Comedy           Horror

Shaun of the Dead                                85%                 15%

Lesbian Vampire Killers                   90%                 10%

Doghouse                                                98%                 2%

Severance                                           10%                90%

Now take another look at the poster above, why would they try to market the 10% of Ha-Has more than the 90% (and far more effective) “ooga-boogas”?

I’ll tell ya’ why. Because the first three films each made far more at the box office than was first expected, and in the case of LVK and Doghouse, both movies SUCKED, so making anything at all would be a substantial increase on what was forecast.

Now let’s look at Dog Soldiers and The Descent, solid UK horror films indeed, but neither made a great deal of money, even though The Descent is widely considered one of the better horror films of the last several years.

So that leads us to why the poster for Severance plays up the yuks.

Now back to reality; Severance isn’t actually very funny at all. Sure, early on there a re a few jokes but none of them are laugh at loud funny.

But that aside this is a good little horror flick and worth a look.

The plot: A weapons company organises a team building exercise that necessitates a bus trip to Hungary for some reason. After a delay caused by a traffic hazard, the bus unexpectedly goes, and the remaining guys must hoof it to the hotel.

There are 5 guys and 2 gals, rather than worry about their names let’s use their horror movie code-names.

The guys: The Boss. The Young bloke. The Reliable-Smart guy. The Nerd. And The Wanker.

The Gals: The Spunky (almost) hot one. The Conservative-Homely one.

So the young bloke is a bit “over” all this team building stuff and wants out. As he can’t physically escape he decides to take some magic mushies and trip his way out of reality for a while, this is apparently where much of the early humour lies, however I can’t remember much. So the Young bloke then claims to have seen someone lurking off-road in a menacing fashion, only his claims are taken with a pinch of magic mushies and ignored… initially.

The team eventually comes to a run down “lodge”, where the Boss decides that despite the smelly, deserted and basically ominous appearance of the venue that the show must go on, and plans out the following day’s activities.

Over the first night the clichéd “sitting around spouting scary stories” thing happens, each of the stories somehow provides a reason as to why someone might hate the weapons company and might want to do them harm.

In one of the more bizarre developments that I can recall in any movie the Nerd brings out dinner which is then tucked into, only a human tooth is found in the meal, and after questioning the Nerd reveals that he “found” the pie and simply heated it up.

Me personally, I don’t really like to eat anything that might be deemed even adventurous. I can’t for the life of me see me reacting well to the news that someone simply re-heated something that they “came across”.

(I actually found that part grosser than any of the butchery, torture and barbarism that followed.)

There is another sighting, this time the Conservative girl spots a guy out the window peering in, perfect reason to get the fuck out of Dodge I might argue, but the Boss says no we stay despite protests.

The next day the Boss sends two of the group to seek contact with the outside world, the rest of them head off to play good ol’ team building paintball.

Both groups encounter out of the ordinary things that provide them with far more than just evidence that they should scarper.

And so it begins…

Now I have a theory about ensemble horror movies: The lower the starting head count of potential “victims”, the gorier the kills.

I think that largely holds true here, we start with 7, and as that number is reduced the black humour element gets less prominence, and more straightforward horror elements with the intent to scare are introduced. And I must say they do it pretty well, far better than I initially expected.

Severance is by no means a genre classic, but it is a nice tight 90 minutes, and though a couple of times it very nearly veered off into “rubbish” territory it kept unexpectedly and improbably landing back on it’s feet. This is one of the better British horror movies of the last few years, and to think I very nearly didn’t watch it as Doghouse left such a nasty taste in my mouth last year and Lesbian Vampire Killers was so underwhelming.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. This is not a horror-comedy. It is a horror film. And not a bad one either.

P.S. I watched Severance a couple weeks ago, and only thought about it again today when I went to put the review up.

I thought it a good time as any to update my recollections. Now two + weeks on I remember only a few events in the film, still most notably the “Found Pie” scene that still makes me feel sick now just thinking about it.

What I do still remember though is that it was worth watching, so while it might not stick with you like The Descent or The Ring it was an enjoyable and worthwhile film.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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