Shaun of the Dead meets Saw. Employees of an international weapons manufacturer are off to Eastern Europe for a “team building weekend.” When the bus is stopped by logs blocking the road, their jerk of a boss (Tim McInnerny) has everybody walk to the lodge where they’re supposed to play some paintball. The ass-kissing nerd (Andy Nyman) can’t wait to get there, Posh Guy (Toby Stephens) lets everybody know he thinks it’s a terrible idea, and the cute American chick (Laura Harris) is busy keeping the stoner who just ate a bag of ‘shrooms (Danny Dyer) from chewing the bark off the trees and seeing strangers in the woods.
Of course, our drug-addled hero is right: there are strangers in the woods; you can tell by the subjective camera. Hiding in the underbrush are murderers driven mad by the wars that ravaged their country, Yugoslavian or Transylvanian ninjas toting machetes, flamethrowers, and other weaponry manufactured by — aha! — the corporate pansies about to be butchered.
Unlike Boon Joon-ho‘s polished variations on genre, this hybrid doesn’t feel all that controlled. Severance is pleasantly shoddy, and the movie knocks about like a jerky haunted house ride with a few detours to the fun house. A mildly surreal dream sequence gives way to a gross-out joke about a disgusting pie, a swinging sixties “sex lodge” fantasia follows a black-and-white Nosferatu parody — and while you’re still trying to figure out how it all fits together, well-meaning Billy (Baabou Ceesay) gets gutted, earnest Jill (Claudie Blakley) is beheaded (or was it the other way around?), somebody is burnt alive and a leg gets amputated in one of the more gruesomely hilarious scenes I’ve seen in a while.
The most outrageous and exhilarating moments of Severance zip by like Apocalypto on whippets, gory but oh so hilarious. But in the last third, the movie leans too heavily on the horror conventions it’s not quite mocking. If you’re not a fan of slasher flicks, the endless frenzied running about through leafy hillsides spiked with booby traps is bound to get a wee bit tiresome — and if you’re squeamish about crotches stabbed by Rambo knives, feet stuffed in refrigerators and human organs pierced by sharp utensils, you might not be around anymore anyway. For those who can take it, Severance packs some bloody good laughs. Severance opens in May.
Severance. Christopher Smith, 2006. ***