The Red Right Hand
  www.theredrighthand.co.uk





SEVERANCE
Working Nine-To-Five Is A Real Killer


Director
Christopher Smith
Starring
Danny Dyer
Laura Harris
Tim McInnerny
Toby Stephens

Horror and humour; not exactly the first successful combination that comes to mind, nor the most obvious. Having previously directed an all-out horror suspense flick, Smith must have seen the audience divided; those who winced, cowered, cried, shrieked and those who giggled. No matter how depraved the acts of horrific violence, there will always be one member of the audience completely desensitised and enjoying it for all the wrong reasons (not exactly getting off on the fear but simply finding the whole ordeal completely absurd). Not unlike Shaun Of The Dead, this film tries to blend comedy with scares and gore, unfortunately, Smith has no experience with comedies but appears to be a fan of The Office. I, on the other hand, am not. I don't get The Office and I don't particularly want to.

Severance (originally titled P45 but renamed because the Americans wouldn't know what a P45 is - having never received one) has been described as The Office (which I dislike) meets Deliverance (which I love) but is neither. Weapons manufacturers, Palisade Defences have sent their staff members on a 'bonding' retreat; as is becoming the norm with large conglomerate companies these days - so if anyone sues the company for stress they can get out of paying by stating that a company retreat was provided. Mmm orienteering... take that, daily pressure! Along for the trip are the usual office suspects:
- the boss, Richard [McInnerny]
- the chavvy stoner, Steve [Dyer]
- the overly exuberant nerd, Gordon [Andy Nyman]
- the hot, sassy blonde yank*, Maggie [Harris]
- the confident lantern-jawed jock, Harris [Stephens]
- the hardworking minority, Billy [Babou Ceesay]
and the dumpy liberal, Jill [Claudie Blakley]
On the way to their lodge, the coach comes across a fallen tree, the driver freaks out when an alternate route is suggested and throws his passengers out, turning the bus around. There's a brief excuse for a joke here about bears and international borders but for a horror/comedy there seems to be a clear lack of the latter. As per Richard's orders, the team start to walk to the lodge. Eventually they come across a broken-down shack in the middle of nowhere, morale is far from high. On further investigation of the surrounding buildings, Harris finds some Palisade documents but is unable to read the Russian. Stories, conspiracies and legends are told at dinner about secret Soviet prisons, war criminals, mass murders and crooked governments, all with Palisade's backing. Turns out there is an element of truth to the stories, Serbian war criminals (who enjoyed the killing a little too much) were kept in cells under that house, where they were tortured - efforts to achieve reformation - all the equipment and military hardware provided courtesy of Palisade Defences. Whilst out paint-balling, Gordon discovers a bear trap... with his foot. As they attempt to get Gordon to a hospital their vehicle is taken off the road. Slowly, one-by-one, each member gets picked off as an expected blood bath ensues - Not the best film to see 2 months before a trip to Russia but nevermind.

The moments of terror are delivered fairly well, with the Serbian background story being fairly engaging and interesting. The real problems start to surface when it comes to the humour. I genuinely couldn't get along with the tired drug references and awkward sex jokes. There is one moment in particular that made me smile a little; Harris and Jill are having a discussion about the weapons they design and create when Jill states that the guillotine was more humane than a mine. Harris disagrees, claiming that when Marie Antoinette was decapitated her brain would be alive for 2-3 minutes, resulting in her witnessing her stumpy neck bleeding all over her. Later in the film, Harris has his head lopped off, it rolls down the path and is staring straight at his body as his killer walks away. We cut back to Harris' POV as he watches the blood trickle from his neck, suddenly his eyes widen and a small smile creeps across his face.

There's nothing overly special about this film, which is a shame because it's an interesting concept. Had it been solely horrific it would have ended up a fairly mediocre suspense flick but because they've tried to interject humour into the process (badly) it's sullied the whole effect. With a gung-ho American boss, George [David Gilliam], at the helm of the company's promo-video and later in the actual Hungarian lodge, there is a niche carved for a little current political humour. George breaks out a rocket launcher and aims at the incoming enemies. The rocket fires straight at them and as they dive for the ground the missile banks sharply, soaring into the sky. As it does, a plane flying overhead is blown to smithereens - made me chuckle. In theory it could have been better had the comedic elements been on par with horror story; if you would like a further example think in reverse, ie. a scary movie that's primarily trying to be funny - mostly spoofs. If you're looking for a good example of humour and gore that marry well together, might I suggest something like Evil Dead 2 or Dog Soldiers.

Release Date:
25th August 2006

The Scene To Look Out For:
Having settled into the lodge, everyone sits down to eat - cue a few jokes with regards to Maggie being too skinny and not eating. Gordon has prepared a pie and everyone shares in ghost stories about the possible origins of the house. Suddenly Steve starts retching and reaches into his mouth, pulling out a tooth. Harris comments that he's too young for his teeth to be falling out. Steve kicks back from the table and exclaims that it's not his tooth. Everyone starts to panic, tension runs high and the haunting orchestral music (the score being one of the highlights of the entire movie) starts to peak. Jill asks who made the pie? It suddenly dawns on them all that it was Gordon who produced the pie. All eyes lock on the short man who pipes up with, "Oh, I didn't make it, I found it!"

Notable Characters:
Ex-Bond villain, Toby Stephens plays Harris as the arrogant, stuck up man's man with ease but not to the extent where he becomes ridiculous and annoying. A nod also needs to go to Nyman's performance of Gordon... who is blatantly Paul's dad. For those of you that don't know who Paul is nor his father, this is Paul; my apologies for that seemingly irrelevant reference.

Highlighted Quote:
"English birds ain't complicated, you buy 'em a Bacardi Breezer and they'll ride you like Seabiscuit"

In A Few Words:
"With average scares and pitiful jokes, Severance feels like a wasted opportunity. The BBC gave this film 4/5, so I gave it 4 as well... but I mark out of 10"

Total Score:
4/10


Matthew Stogdon

*(They're great - I'm currently dating one)