Comedy and horror have always shared a close relationship. From the Abbott and Costello/Universal monsters films of the 1940s to the Scary Movie franchise of today, studios have taken some of their greatest scares and turned them into something we can all laugh at, twisting the absurd and grotesque to provide us with smiles rather than nightmares. But whereas some films completely mock the horrific situations contained within (80?s slasher spoofs like Student Bodies or Wacko, for instance), others have come to lovingly embrace their source material while simultaneously poking fun at it. Films like Re-Animator, Dead Alive, Shaun Of The Dead, and the Evil Dead series have all effectively combined slapstick and horror, making the gruesome moments so far over the top that they become utterly ridiculous.
Those films have also gone on to become some of the most beloved genre favorites, and with good reason; they give fans the best of both worlds, a hearty dose of laughter without skimping on the blood and guts. Severance, the latest from UK director Christopher Smith (Creep), is the newest attempt to blend humor with horror, this time taking a stab at (pun most certainly intended) the current crop of survival themed films (think Hostel or Wolf Creek) which have grown so popular as of late.
As a reward for their hard work, a group of seven employees from the European sales division of Palisade Defense, a leading supplier of military grade weaponry, heads out to a cabin in the remote Hungarian wilderness for a weekend getaway filled with team building exercises. The trip seems doomed from the get go, however, when the road is blocked and their bus driver abandons them, forcing them to walk through the woods to find that the luxurious lodge they were expecting is actually a decrepit shack in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention the fact that they have to spend an entire weekend together.
Little do they know, things are only going to get worse, as they begin to be terrorized by a group of extremely well trained killers, who may or may not hold some mysterious connection to Palisade, as well as a nasty grudge against the company. They?ll have to try to put aside their petty differences and truly work together as a team if they hope to survive. Thankfully for us, this leads to some hilarious results.
The film is being marketed as a sort of mashing of wilderness horror a la The Hills Have Eyes meets the smash British comedy series The Office, with ads showing a decapitated body dressed in business attire next to the tagline ?another bloody office outing.? However, this is a comparison which isn?t necessarily entirely accurate. While all the amusing workplace stereotypes are present (the bumbling, know-it-all boss, the nerdy corporate suck up, the hot girl everyone finds attractive, etc.), the humor is just not on par with the dry wit of The Office.
That?s not to say it isn?t funny though. The film works best when the jokes are direct parodies of the genre conventions that it is concurrently paying homage to. Moments such as an unsuspecting victim stepping on a rusty bear trap only to have his leg clamped down upon again and again while his coworkers try to free him play out as hilarious sight gags as well as horrific displays of gore (and in-jokes directed at diehard horror enthusiast). But whether you fit into that category or not, Severance is lots of fun and an enjoyable experience all around, even for the most casual genre fan.
Severance is playing as part of the '07 Philadelphia Film Festival.