Oh, SEVERANCE. You beguiled me with your all-too effective trailer and your promises of English wit and horror al la SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Oh how you tempted me with luscious images of Laura Harris, combined with your nifty concept of The Office meets 80's schlock horror. Instead, you deliver me a mediocre tale of insane Russian soldiers, humor that more often than not falls flat as soon as it leaves the actors mouths, and scary moments that lie limp and lifeless (ha!) on the screen.
It's not that SEVERANCE is really bad. It's that SEVERANCE fails to deliver on the promises made in the trailer. Is it funny? Well, there are a few chuckle moments, but nothing laugh out loud funny. Is it scary? Well, there are some gruesome torture scenes, a decapitation and a scene with a dismembered leg that a little gory, but little in the way of actual scares. As you;re watching, you can envision the pitch meeting that got this movie made: "Hey! Let's take The Office and mix it with a crazy American 80's horror movie!"
The movie follows the London sales branch of a weapons conglomerate as they trek across Hungary for weekend team building event in the woods. After a fallen tree blocks their way, the take a branching road (against the vehement protests of their bus driver, who promptly abandons them) where they find a dilapidated lodge. Little do they know that the lodge is the former living quarters for an old insane asylum that housed Russian soldiers went crazy with blood lust. Well, you can imagine what happens next. Turns out the soldiers are still around, and proceed to hunt down our sales group for reasons which become clearer as the movie goes on.
What works? Well, I may be biased but Laura Harris from 24 and Dead Like Me is great - she's a plucky heroine that has both warmth and character. Likewise co-star Danny Dyer as the drug-toking sidekick. Both actors manage to move beyond the stereotype roles they begin with. SEVERANCE also work in terms of plot - things happen for a reason - nothing is done for the sake of being "cool" and - thank Jehovah - there's no 180 degree whiplash turn ending. In fact, the opening scene and the ending work the best in my eyes, really paying homage to some of the ridiculous action/suspense b movies of the 80's.
In other areas, the movie doesn't fire on all its cylinders. I think the worst problem isn't the moments of comedy, but the moments of horror. Everything feels very cut and dried - there's no real tension to any of the action or horror scenes. Things happen, you go" oh, that just happened," and you move on the next scene. Nothing lingers, if that makes any sense. Nothing builds to any suspense, and you're left just feeling bored, which kills all the moments you're supposed to feel frightened.
Going back and watching the trailer again (you can view it here) I'm amazed at how effective it is at selling it's particular product to the masses. It almost makes me want to go back and watch again - surely I was mistaken the first time! Judge for yourself. I don't whole-heartedly recommend SEVERANCE, but I can't really steer your clear of it either. Just remember not to eat any found pies and you should be okay...