Modern horror movies don’t get much better than Severance. The problem with the genre is that too often they re mired in ultraviolent schlock on par with the Saw franchise. The memorable horror films, however, have always gone beyond the gore, blood, and guts to offer something beneath the surface. Remember the first Halloween? While it was a slasher flick, it was also suspenseful and earned the audience’s investment through the depiction of Laurie Strode as the brave heroine. Or, more recently, Drag Me To Hell?
The Sam Raimi film managed to rise above the pack due to the humor interwoven into the terror. It’s fun to see scary movies, but only if theres something other than people being mindlessly hacked to pieces (a big reason I hated The Strangers). By adding suspense or comedic elements, any horror film becomes a more interesting watch. That’s what happens in Severance.After a gory prologue that actually takes place near the climax, the film begins in a bus on a country road. On board, several corporate types are embarking on a team building exercise to be held at a lodge deep within the woods. However, a fallen tree trunk interrupts, and, after a harsh exchange with the bus driver, they are left in the middle of nowhere. The group makes their way to an empty lodge nearby and believes it’s their would-be destination. At first, everything seems normal, but soon a tooth is found in a pie and shadowy masked figures seem to be lurking just beyond the treeline. Things arent what they appear to be, after all, and the carnage springs from there.
The strength of the characters allow the soon-to-be victims to work effectively. In many modern slasher movies, we initially meet a group, but theres nothing interesting about them (Wrong Turn or Dark Ride). It’s like meeting cattle destined for the slaughterhouse, totally bereft of any real personality. However, all the characters from Severance have identifiable and humorous, relatable traits. Richard (Tim McInnerny) is the pain in the ass boss weve all had, trying to keep focused on the company and the team building exercise rather than acknowledging the real peril at hand. Gordon (Andy Nyman) is the second fiddle kiss-ass. Harris (Toby Stephens) plays the self-centered prick who doesn’t care about the company or team building, but still remains the guy youd most want on your side in a fight. Maggie (Laura Harris) and Steve (Danny Dyer) are the unlikely heroes. We meet Steve as he pops hallucinogens and orders sexy escorts to meet them at the cabin. And Maggie is the lone American of the mostly English bunch.
Directed by Christopher Smith, Severance has the necessary balance of gore, horror, and laughs. It can be quite funny at times, even when heinous things are occurring. Tonally, it’s reminiscent of another well-crafted horror-comedy favorite of mine, Cabin Fever. The pacing is terrific, with no scenes dragging on for too long, and the gory special effects will have many viewers squirming in their seats.Severance is a contemporary horror film thats perfect for watching with a large group of friends, with a loved one, or alone with a big tub of popcorn. It features a witty script, sharp direction and intriguing, unique characters. If only all horror movies were this fun. Then the genre wouldn’t have to depend so heavily on remakes or bland, lifeless gorefests.