Combining horror with comedy is potentially very rewarding yet also very dangerous - Cabin Fever (2002) and Slither (2006) illustrate the high and low ends of the success scale. Severance falls somewhere between the two.
The story is fairly traditional horror setup: a group of people stranded in a forest miles from anywhere in an Eastern European country. And there's something nasty out there...
The group of people in question are a team from Pallisade, a multinational company dealing in armaments. They're not exactly top management material, which is perhaps why they've been sent to Eastern Europe on a team building exercise. Things start going wrong following an argument with their driver. It's not long before the blood starts to flow.
Initially both the humour and the frights are both low key. The humour is at the expense of the useless characters and the "defence" industry for which they work. The frights consist of a number of "wait for it" and "gotcha" moments.
As the film progresses both the horror and the comedy become less subtle. People die and are mutilated in a variety of unpleasant ways. Yet at the same time many of the nastiest scenes are also the most funny. I never thought I'd laugh out loud at someone caught in a man-trap.
There is, of course, a story to justify the carnage. It is, of course, nonsense. On some level the film could be read as a morality tale with the dealers in death receiving poetic justice. Yet that's a sideshow - this is basically a film about killing people in unpleasantly funny ways.
Acting? Well, there isn't much needed in a film like this. The actors do a good job of playing up to their stereotypes, in particular Tim McInnerney and Andy Nyman (the latter perhaps better known for his work with Derren Brown). Direction works well, showing how shaky hand-held cameras should be used (the key word is "restraint").
Severance is rather patchy. It doesn't all work, but when it does it works very well. It's undeniably tasteless - but a bloody good laugh.
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