A horror movie I liked? The apocalypse approacheth.

Released in 2006, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 07 Sep 2006 by Scott Morris
Severance image

Severance is the latest outing from Christopher Smith, director of Creep. No, wait! Come back! It's nothing like as excruciating as the official third worst movie of 2005. In fact, it's actually one of the better films of the year, with a good shout at being the funniest. No, we wouldn't have thought it possible either. It the surprises in life that make it all worthwhile though, as long as the surprise isn't a hidden beartrap.

The setup isn't far from the old horror mainstay, with a small gang of workers for arms manufacturer Palisade waylaid whilst travelling through a deepest darkest Eastern European forest. Hiking up to the companies 'luxury' retreat, a dilapidated shack, the bunch soon realise that they aren't alone. Oh, those zany defence contractor targeting lunatics, whatever will they get up to next?

Wisely eschewing the dark paths of dire rubbish Creep trod, Severance essentially takes Dog Soldiers' ball and runs with it. With strong characters and sharp script, much of the early running is played for laughs rather than outright fear provocation. Tim McInnerny's dithering, oafish boss Richard fears having his authority usurped by young Turk Harris (Toby Stephens, who you may remember as the only halfway interesting Bond villain in some years). Meek P. A. Billy (Babou Ceesay)'s got his eye on exec Maggie (Laura Harris), but she's more interested, somewhat bizarrely, in wideboy substance caner Steve (Danny Dyer). In short, much the usual office politics, but with machete and flamethrower wielding psychopaths causing bother as well. Hurrah!

There's a thin line between comedy and horror, and it's drawn in completely different places depending on the observer. This probably accounts for my lack of enthusiasm for Shaun of the Dead and the recent Slither. I could see where they were heading, but couldn't follow them to their ultimate goal. Severance I can run with. It shares the same respect for the genre as the aforementioned, but hits more often with its at times surreal sense of playful fun that's a million miles away from the mickey-extraction of Scary Movie et al, or the unintentional laughter invoked by sheer ineptitude on the parts of, well, Creep, for starters.

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Dyer might just be playing the same cheeky cockery wideboy role seen in The Business and The Football Factory, but there's few people who can pull off 'befuddled' quite as well as he does here. The early doors scenes of his perturbed paranoia brought on by mushroom and weed abuse are genuinely hilarious. Toby Stephens' acerbic jibes at his ineffectual boss strike home, and seeing him in drag is perhaps the most disturbing thing committed to celluloid this year. McInnerny can handle this sort of role in his sleep and Andy Nyman shows more charisma in a minor supporting role here than in the entirety of his own vehicle, Shut Up and Shoot Me.

It's not without its failings, and once the comic aspects take a back seat to the inevitable dispatching of the roster there's a few flat stretches. Nowhere near enough to make much of a difference, but it takes some of the shine from it. Given the state that the horror genre finds itself in, despite the baffling popularity of the bum nuggets that clunk our way on a regular basis, it's something of a relief that this leans more towards comedy than horror. Not least because it's really funny. I don't know if the overload of high falutin' festival fodder I've been indulging in of late have left me more receptive to something with more obvious aims, or if it's just the fact that it achieves them more readily that makes Severance quite the unexpected pleasure, and in truth it matters little. Much as it puts me in a state of shock to say it, I heartily recommend this film. From the director of Creep.

I feel dirty.

Bonus points for having 'Noseferatu' as a credited character.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Christopher Smith
Cast list:
Danny Dyer (Steve)
Laura Harris (Maggie)
Tim McInnerny (Richard)
Toby Stephens (Harris)
Claudie Blakley (Jill)
Andy Nyman (Gordon)
Babou Ceesay (Billy)
David Gilliam (George)