Severance (2006 movie) review…

Severance (2006 movie) review after the break…

Severance (2006 movie) review…

One of the hardest genres to write in is the horror / comedy. Quite honestly, so few films succeed in merging these diametrically-opposed genres that it’s amazing that so many attempt the seemingly impossible feat. Like alchemists of the medieval era, everyone seems to think that they have the formula to turn lead into gold or, in this case, be able to generate laughs one minute and edge-of-your-seat chills the very next.

“Severance” is a 2006 UK film about a group of office-types from a defense company going to a luxury cottage for a team-building exercise. A fallen tree detours the group and then the tragedy of errors begins as our group encounters everything but luxury, including death.

The successful series, “The Office,” is an UK offering about a highly dysfunctional office run by a completely incompetent boss. Although I’ve never watched either the UK original or US equivalent (which, defying the odds, are where few such transplants has succeeded), one can easily tell that this film is attempting to emulate.

All of the office stereotypes are here – The low-level slacker just competent enough to stay employed, the boss’ toadie who’s ever-eager to perform the corporate bidding, the somewhat daft and mostly ineffective boss, the token African (in this case, African-English?), the “Ugly Betty” & her more physically appealing counterpart… They’re all here and respond to the situation appropriately enough.

A lot of the early humor is effective – A man testing out the diving board on a long abandoned swimming pool is fine in one scene and soaked in the next, leaving the viewer to assume that he had tested the aging apparatus just a little too far. Anyone wanting the dry wit that is now almost customary from English comedy need look no further – It is here in abundance, at least, at the beginning of the film.

Unfortunately, the film’s equation towards melding the dry wit of English comedy with the tense gore of “torture pr0n” (as the kiddies describe it) quickly turns both ingredients awry. Whereas people marvel over the phenomenon known as “more then the sum of their parts,” in this film,  “less then the sum of their parts” is the more accurate description.

It is a shame that whomever made the critical decision to meld the two genres together couldn’t decide which type of movie to eventually film. Both genres have their moments here if the other is completely disregarded: An otherwise tense realization that there is more then one killer is wasted far too early in the film and without any levity; A potentially humorous incident involving a large spider and an unobservant woman has little payoff thanks to a cheap and non-related scare; Finding the “real” luxury cottage would have been brutally ironic if not for it’s brief appearance and ridiculous comedic payoff (complete with derivative American patriotic music); A man getting beheaded would have been chilling if not to be a cheap comedic payoff for a previous and relevant discussion he had earlier.

The acting and scenery are never distracting although one can only wonder how incompetent the entire office crew could be to realize that “luxury” does not equate to an aging lodge that looks mostly overgrown by the surrounding forest. It might have been more effective for this film if it had skewed more towards a comedy – An office crew too oblivious to realize that they’re being stalked and stalkers too incompetent to kill their victims. Tenseness would have occurred because the two parties are equal as opposed to the actual film where the stalkers clearly have the upper hand throughout most of the story.

There were a few nice touches that, regardless of the failed melding of comedy and horror, were effective. I definitely appreciated the opening scene where we see two women in a pit trying to escape by tapping into their inner naturalists and the fate of one other character. This scene is played out of sequence with the rest of the film and not repeated, making for a bit of satisfaction when we later have a better understanding of these characters, how they got into their predicament and how they eventually get out.

Yet “Severance” is neither a good enough horror with comedic elements to be effective or a good enough comedy with horror elements to be effective. The result is a muddled offering that will please a few and turn off many more. Perhaps the lesson learned from this film is simple – Stick to the main roads and, barring that, always make sure you have a cell phone connection.

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