The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Movie Break: Severance

When I was in Montreal over Memorial Day weekend, I kept seeing a movie poster of a decapitated wage-slave, featuring the tagline "The Office meets Deliverance". That was pretty much all I needed to hear, so I rallied my traveling companions to see it. Crushingly, the movie wasn't set to open until the following Friday when we would already be back in the States.

When we got home I ordered the DVD from Amazon UK and it didn't disappoint.

Severance is a British horror-comedy in the Shaun of the Dead tradition but, instead of zombies, it riffs on the current crop of torture/grande guignol films like Hostel and Saw.

In the film, the sales and marketing division of a weapons manufacturer has earned a team-building weekend at a "luxury" lodge in Eastern Europe. Turns out the lodge is the hiding place for some ugly, black-ops business and the employees end up whittled down by heavily-armed, revenge-driven psychotics who have a grudge against the company.

The actors get a lot of mileage out of the script's management-speak jokes and workaday references to the War on Terror. The setting is well-realized: utilitarian cinder-block buildings and ominous, unlovely woods that are only there to camouflage the people watching you. And the scenes of violence/torture are genuinely disturbing. Perhaps because of this, the film keeps the slapstick to a minimum and the humor is more quiet and character-driven. Everyone is given at least one good scene to come out of type and get us to really like them before they are creatively slaughtered.

I haven't seen most the films Severance is riffing on. I don't find the torture movies all that interesting or scary and none of them are as disturbing or mind-bending as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or a memo by Alberto Gonzalez) but Severance stands on its own and is a solid horror-comedy (with a better developed horror element than Shaun of the Dead). Worth a look if have an All-Region player or are patient for a US release.


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Anne Weale said...

Hello William - found your blog via Sarah's Books and thought I would try a comment here as I wasn't able to comment at Grumpy Old Bookman [of whom you are also a fan I see] this week and have problems with incoming comments at my book blog.