Another Bloody Office Outing.

The Company Is Making Cutbacks.

If you put The Office (2001) and The Hills Have Eyes (2006) in a blender, the end result would be something quite similar to writer/director Christopher Smith’s second feature film, Severance (2006). Moving onward and upward from his first feature, Creep (2004), Smith has decided to expand upon his horror/thriller repertoire, adding comedy to the mix. However, unlike other British horror/comedy films such as the highly successful Shaun of the Dead (2004) – which is without doubts side-splittingly hilarious, but honestly not bloodcurdling in the slightest (despite a lot of airborne blood) – this film successfully oscillates between the two genres; it makes you laugh and yet still gives you the absolute creeps. The story is simple: a team of sales executives from Palisade Defence, a multi-national weapons company, head to a corporate retreat in the forests of Hungary as a team and morale building exercise. When they come across a road block due to a suspiciously fallen tree, and their foreign speaking bus driver refuses to go an alternate route, they are forced to walk to their secluded lodge. They make it safely (although much to their dismay, their supposed luxurious lodge is more like a haunted mansion), but are soon hunted down one by one by merciless masked assailants in the woods for reasons that are never fully explained – although a lot of hypothetical theories are thrown out there.

The first half of the film exists purely to build up the suspense, primarily through extremely witty humour and clever visual gags. Walking into the theatre, you already know you are going to see a lot of gore, but the blood and guts don’t really start flying until you’re sunk quite comfortably in your seat. Smith skilfully leads the audience in one direction, and then recklessly puts on the handbrake so that you end up heading on a completely different course. One minute you’re laughing – the next you’re covering you’re eyes. When people start dieing, you start doing both.

The characters in this film feel like they’ve just come off the set of The Office. The reactions they have with the horror in front of them are both credible and fun. Danny Dyer’s character is a highlight – a lovable loafer, who spends most of the first part of the movie in a magic mushroom induced frenzy. Although some might call these kinds of “drugs jokes” effortless adolescence humour, judging from the reaction of a wide ranged audience at MIFF, this is clearly not the case.

Once the killing starts, the comedy is put on hold and is only given out again in prescribed doses when you least expect it. The gore factor is extremely high – with some massively disturbing and terrifying scenes. Some of the more sane characters are deliberately destroyed in very moving, and immensely horrific ways. The special and visual effects are both realistic and gruesome. Political undertones, as well as the fact that the film deliberately pays tribute and pushes the boundaries of specific genres, gives the film an extra element of intrigue.

This is a very enjoyable and unpredictable film, with some tremendous high production values. The musical score by John Frankish (who also wrote the score for MIFF 2006’s Opal Dream), as well as a terrific sound design helps keeps the audience going. The photography and images are both beautiful and petrifying – which is a great accomplishment considering this is Ed Wild’s first feature film as cinematographer.

You will be either clutching the person next to you or weeping with laughter as Smith takes you on an increasingly insane roller-coaster ride with everything you want in this kind of film – it even has a bear!


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