Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Don't ask how many times you have been here before, because the list goes on and on. It doesn't matter whether the killers are werewolves, zombies, mutants or mountain men. They have the same thing on their minds. What matters is whether you give a damn about you gets carved. Are the victims believable, likeable, sympathetic, funny or plain stupid? Why are knives more cinematic than guns? When did the fashion for disembowelling begin?

What gives Severance an edge over other slasher-in-the-woods flicks is the witty script and the characters. A small group of office workers from a British arms manufacturer is taking a short break in Hungary to play games, shoot paint guns and have a bondy sesh away from the petty politics of the workplace.

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At the start, no one seems enthusiastic, most are cynical and some are stoned. Their leader (Tim McInnerny) is a pompous arse, who succeeds in pissing off the coach driver so much that he refuses to carry on and the group is dumped on the road in the middle of a forest, clueless of where they are, listening to the howl of wolves and the roar of bears.

It's not the animals that are scary, but the hooded men who lurk in the trees. When the visitors arrive at a disused mental hospital, they discover papers that indicate that the ex-inmates had a particular hatred for the British firm, because of some past indiscretion, and all they want to do is killkillkill.

The film witnesses the gory demise of these hapless intruders at the hands of large men in big coats with an array of hideous weaponry. The 15-certificate is a sick joke. Severance has 18 branded on its testicles. It makes Wrong Turn look civilised.

The performances are strong. Danny Dyer, as the Cockney lad with a stash of joints and E-tabs, is the anarchic element. Laura Harris, as the blonde American, is the sex object. Toby Stephens, as jaded middle management, represents old school arrogance. Claudie Blakley, as the independent-minded secretary, has a prickly feminist sensibility. Andy Nyman, as the anally retentive bookkeeper, is diligent about rules and regulations. Babou Ceesay, as the token black man, displays tolerance and common sense.

After the equally nasty, but less accomplished, Creep, co-writer/director Christopher Smith has created something valuable in this bloody, over hyped genre. He is particularly successful in integrating humour and horror, without ridiculing the fear factor. In the end it comes down to good writing and committed performances, both of which are achieved here.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A British armament firm's fun time out in Hungary turns nasty when they get lost in the forest.
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Director: Christopher Smith

Writer: James Moran, Christopher Smith

Starring: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay, David Gilliam

Year: 2006

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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