It was supposed to be a team-building weekend. A sales group, employed by an international weapons company called Palisades Defense, is riding on a bus, on their way to a luxury lodge in the midst of a Hungarian forest. But a fallen tree has the blocked the main road and now the seven members must get out of the vehicle, and hike to the lodge. Team manager Richard (Tim McInnerny) thinks the walk shouldn’t be far, assuming that an inch always equals a mile on a map. With not many options, the halfhearted group follows Richard and pauses when strange noises are heard. The only person who suspects peculiar things in the wilderness is Steve (Danny Dyer), but then again, he is also high on mushrooms.

The co-workers are unable to locate their intended lodging. However, they spot an abandoned house, which becomes their temporary refuge for the night. Everything seems to be fine, until the soundtrack plays a scary music. No wait, everything is still fine because scary music does not mean something scary is about to happen. In fact, for the first half of the movie, that’s roughly forty-five minutes, there’s nothing horrific that truly occurs. That big chunk of time is wasted on empty and fake scares.

I was doing the math in my head. There are seven of them. Let’s say one or two survive in the end. That’s at least five deaths that could have been spaced out. Then I thought, maybe the movie does not kill them so soon for a good reason. The extra “living” time could allow the characters to grow more than breathing clichés. Nope, that’s not the case either; the characters remain stereotypes: the good-looking guy (Toby Stephens), the good-looking girl (Laura Harris), the guy with glasses (Andy Nyman), the girl with glasses (Claudie Blakley), the black guy (Babou Ceesay), the black girl… Hold on, there is no black girl. Maybe the filmmakers forgot to cast one or maybe she was left severed on the cutting room floor.

The second half of the movie is a big improvement. The action picks up tremendously and the comedy, when juxtaposed against horror, works a little better. I think “Severance” angles for a mixture of comedy and horror. However, it is a far cry from “Shaun of the Dead,” which was been refreshing and successful in combining both genres. The comedy in “Severance” is weak and most often, too obvious for its own good. By all means, the humor isn’t horrible and some sight gags are actually fun, but too few ideas deliver substantial laughs. The film’s horror aspect fare better. Some deaths are done with chilling execution and some are surprisingly light in tone. I will not reveal the film’s villain(s), but I’ll tell you this: “Severance” is yet another horror movie which paints Eastern Europeans as sick torture artists. I envision an ironic scenario where instigators of this movie stereotype are hacked to pieces by Eastern Europeans who follows the stereotype. How about that for a horror movie?

Grade: C

Toby Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay, Tim McInnerny, Laura Harris, Danny Dyer, and David Gilliam
Screenplay by
James Moran
Christopher Smith
Directed by
Christopher Smith
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug content and some sexuality/nudity