Pitched as "The Office meets Deliverance", Severance is a slick mix of satire and splatter from Christopher Smith, the writer/director of Creep. Where that film kept the fear underground, here the perils are in the open air, as a group of British office workers become lambs to the slaughter while on a team-building weekend in the Hungarian wilds. Yes, it does sound a bit like fellow Brit horror Wilderness; but this time, the giggles that go with the gore are intentional.
One of the best gags comes early on, when ineffectual manager Richard (Tim McInnerny) coins a classic David Brentism: "I can't spell success without you," he tells a team that includes wideboy Steve (Danny Dyer), cynic Harris (Toby Stephens), geek Gordon (Andy Nyman) and sexy supervisor Maggie (Laura Harris). The characters are familiar, but transcend stereotype enough for you to miss the ones who become worm-food when the mysterious cull begins.
As he proved on Creep, Smith has a more-than-working knowledge of horror conventions, which he puts to good use here with several neat reversals of expectation: check out the nicely timed night-time encounter between mousy Jill (Claudie Blakley) and a creepy crawly.
"KEEN EYE FOR THROWAWAY DETAIL"
He also has a keen eye for throwaway detail, like a silent-movie pastiche or a corporate video starring a bushel of blondes. Alas, these idiosyncrasies start to recede as Smith breaks out the heavy artillery for a shoot 'em up (or, in the case of one outrageous gag, shoot-'em-down) finale. Still, mixing comedy with horror's never an easy business, but time and again Severance cuts it.