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These woods ain't no place for weapon's salesmen.

  • Jul 26, 2012
** out of ****

In "Severance", weapons manufacturing corporation Palisade's European division is on its way - by bus - to a lodge for a team-building weekend full of activity and inter-sex bonding. The members of the division are goofball Steve (Dylan Dyer), much-sought after blonde Maggie (Laura Harris), tubby but enthusiastic Gordon (Andy Nyman), snobby Harris (Toby Stephens), straight-faced Jill (Claudie Blakley), and the leader-sort of the group Richard (Tim McInnery). Once they've arrived at their complimentary lodge, courtesy of their boss George (David Gilliam), strange things start to happen like human teeth being found baked into pies just lying around the lodge for the taking, masked men being spotted in the night, and wooden structures discovered built on trees. Then, the man who drove the crew to the spot is found dead not too far away from his crashed bus. And then bear traps are revealed to be lying all around. What's going on? There appears to be someone else in the woods, intent on killing off the employees one by one.

I see what writer/director Christopher Smith is trying to do. He's trying to blend the "Friday the 13th" formula with "Office Space", if that film was set in the wilderness of a Hungarian mountain woods. For the first half of the film, the central idea definitely works. The story moves at a relatively slow pace and I actually kind of liked that about it. But once the second half of the film hits, you begin to realize that it's about to descend into slasher movie territory. I tried to look as deep into it as I possibly could and see something remotely different that the film was doing, but I just couldn't. It's all formula and no class, which is a damn shame when you're trying to make a horror satire, because as viewers we've come to expect a balanced combination of the two.

Smith shows signs of life as a filmmaker. He proves that he's able to produce some wicked build-up but also that he's somewhat incapable of following any of that up with an equally as promising final act. There's a lot of blood in this little flick and it looks good enough to conjure up some kind of atmosphere at first, but Smith simply doesn't ever find his balance between humorous and gory. But the film does have a few moments of effective dark humor; such as one character's head to be chopped off by a machete, only for us to get a glimpse of it in all its decapitated glory as he smiles smugly, staring at the rest of his bloody body. This scene is in reference to an earlier one where he and another primary character discussed whether you die instantly upon being decapitated or if you get a few last moments to think.

Otherwise, the film's sense of humor is kind of hit-or-miss. Early gags such as Steve getting high of magic mushrooms and Jill criticizing the company's promotional video that plays on the small flatscreen in the bus fall flat; while others such as Gordon discovering a diving board aside a yucky leave-covered pool got a few chuckles out of me. But to be honest, the film does not succeed at being genuinely clever. Andy Nyman is a fantastic British comic actor and he's always up for a good performance and his character of Gordon is no different, but he's unable to work around the bland and unimaginative material that is unfortunately put in the center of this mediocre mess. It's not that the film is or isn't funny; it's just that I know I wasn't laughing too much or enough.

On the bright side, at least I KNOW that Smith can do so much better. He seems very fond of the horror genre and tried to put his love on film and it just didn't work this time around (or the first, which was "Creep", less a satire or homage but just as disappointing). "Severance" has its moments and it's engaging for the first half, but the first half ONLY. Its pleasures include a couple of hot Romanian girls (Juli Drajko and Judit Viktor) who show a little skin and plenty of cleavage, a couple of good laughs, a couple of inspired shots, and a couple of clever little scenes that are merely in the wrong movie. I try to remain as open-minded with entries into the horror genre as I can; but this is as open I can be with a film of this caliber. If it's not going to respect my level of intelligence then I won't respect its own.

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Quick Tip by . May 01, 2010
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   I wish that we could give half stars when rating films because it would make life so much easier. Some films just fall into that netherland  between a 3 and a 4 and SEVERANCE is one of them. It isn't the laff riot that I expected but it does offer moments of dark humor though not as many as I would have liked. In fact it has one very clever sequence based on the silent version of NOSFERATU that was one of the best things I've seen in years--unfortunately the film makers …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Severance (2006) is a British comedy horror film, written by James Moran, directed by Christopher Smith, and starring Danny Dyer and Laura Harris. In 2009, media interest in the film was revived following the alleged copycat murder of a UK teenager.

The film opens with George (David Gilliam) and two women running through the woods. The women fall into a large pit trap while George, after refusing to help them, continues running only to be caught in a snare. As George hangs helplessly, a masked man approaches and disembowels him with a knife.

What is later revealed as some days prior to this, the European Sales division of Palisade Defence are on a bus to a team-building weekend at a "luxury lodge" in the Mátra Mountains of Hungary. When a fallen tree blocking the road halts the bus's progress, manager Richard (Tim McInnerny) tells the bus driver to take a dirt road through the woods. The driver refuses and, after some heated words in Hungarian, drives off leaving the group to walk the remaining distance to the lodge.

Eventually the group reaches the lodge, which is old and in serious disrepair. They argue that this cannot be the luxury lodge they have been told about. Richard attempts to convince them this is the correct lodge. The group decide to enter, but mostly because they are tired and weary. When searching for the generator, Harris (Toby Stephens) discovers a file cabinet full of cryptic Palisade documents, written in Russian. The group discusses the ...

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