Judging by how many people ask me where the image at the top of the site came from, Christopher Smith’s first film, Creep, never really reached the audience it deserved to. However, The UK’ers sophomore film, Severance, undoubtedly will. It is a simple and affable horror/comedy that isn’t too juvenile nor too jokey, but with just the right balance of bloody good laughs.
Smith and Moran’s script takes the inherently comical scenario of a corporate retreat/team building exercise and plants the uneager Palisade’s Defense employees in the middle of Eastern Europe. Of course the bus breaks down on the way, stranding the predictably rag-tag bunch at a crusty old lodge which clearly isn’t their resort.
Speculation abounds as to what exactly their current locale was once used for, but swift developments soon point to the ‘ex-insane asylum for psychotic Soviet war criminals who all conveniently happen to hate Pallisade Defense and have spent years lying in wait for their chance at revenge’. You know, that old bag.
The cast of characters themselves aren’t too original. There is the dimwitted boss who everyone, save for the suckups, loathes. There is the slick, handsome wanna-be exec who is above the whole route. Then there are the rest of the drones: a brainy type chic, a pair of brown nosers, the office hottie, and a stoner. While the characters may waffle in and out of predictability, their respective quirks work well enough to bring the funny every time the script calls for it.
And the script is funny. Some of the jokes hit harder than others, but for the most part every gag has its appropriate pay off. In the beginning, it’s all for chuckles, but as the running time ages, so does the film’s darkness. And in short order legs are being severed, heads are flying, and suits are generally being drenched in red.
Here is where I, once again, enter the minority. I really dug Severance. I dug its style and I dug its flavor, but at the end of the day I wasn’t nearly as floored as I was hoping to be. It had a riotous trailer – and has certain riotous moments – but as a whole it never fully strikes that tone perfect homogenization of horror and comedy Smith obviously aimed for. But I’ll admit this is almost entirely due to the fact that I found the main character, the aforementioned stoner, tiresome and not nearly as much of a lark as he was supposed to be. The rest of the script culls together enough off the wall tragedy to be worth your 90 minutes on more than one occasion.
But if you watch it in a group, any shortcomings Severance has will be drown out by laughs fueled by jokes and gore alike. Plus, you get to see someone try to fit a leg into a mini fridge! And for this alone, Christopher Smith has extended my love for him indefinitely.