Comedy-Horrors... What do you call them? Dark Comedies?
No... Fargo is a dark Comedy... Withnail & I is
a dark comedy... The Ladykillers is a dark
comedy... Weekend at Bernie's is... is...
done flawlessly this can be sublime - step forward An
American Werewolf in London. What's that? Can you
bring your French cousin with you? Certainly not!! More
often than not though, these days what you get representing
the genre is a movie pitched as a horror but with lame comedy
elements tacked on to either bolster the weak horror, or
to try and cover two bases - 'you got something for your
horror fans and a few laughs for your comedy fans' CHA-CHING!!
churns out this type of movie so regularly that when a true
out-and-out 'balls in your face' horror comes along from
a Hollywood studio it can really knock you sideways. My
own experience of this came when watching the The
Hills have Eyes remake - After so many Final
Destinations I really wasn't prepared to be shocked
dumb by the brutality of it – my jaw resting atop
like Final Destination 2, Hostel,
(I certainly remember laughing at Hostel...)
often receive criticism along the lines of 'it didn't really
know what it was trying to be – funny or scary', and
fair enough. But anyone who says that about Severance clearly has no imagination, as like An American
Werewolf in London, it tries to be both and succeeds
admirably. The scary bits scare, the gory bits are gross,
and the laughs are intelligent and beautifully 'played straight'
it goes a little something like this:
Weapons company Palisade Defence send their British office
to a conference and team building weekend in Eastern Europe.
While driving through the woods to the lodge they're staying
at, the road is blocked by a fallen tree and they're forced
to walk the rest of the way. Instead of making it to their
destination, they turn up at a deserted asylum for genocidal
ex-soldiers, and mistaking it for their lodge they decide
to stay – try the beds out for size – eat some
porridge – you know the drill.
The inmates however, are still around, though they've taken
to living in the woods these days and picking off travelers
in hideously violent ways. It also transpires that these
particular soldiers have a particular grudge against this
very defense company.
So, twenty minutes in and we know where we are. It's a slasher
flick. Most of the people you've just been introduced to
are going to be dead by the end of the movie – If
you're okay with that, then you're probably going to enjoy
yourself , unless the movie turns out to be a half baked
pile of crap, but don't worry – it doesn't.
cast is superb – I don't think you ever for a second
really buy this odd group as a bunch of R&D experts
from a global arms company but in the scheme of things that
doesn't really matter – you buy them as a bunch of
people who have a history together – that alone makes
them interesting enough to watch, so you're more than willing
to take this grisly journey with them.
of the most inspired pieces of casting in the movie is the
wonderful Danny Dyer as Steve. We never really find out
what Steve does at the company and he certainly seems to
be the odd one out, but the rest of the group's fondness
for him helps to gloss over this nicely. Dyer is a likeable
sort of geezer, looking like a 16 year old with a hangover,
he is to Ray Winstone, what Christian Slater is to Jack
Nicholson. He's clearly going to go far, though to half
the audience he'll already be something of a star: As the
lead in The Football Factory he became
a 'public-house'-hold name, but not a lot of people saw
it and most of them saw it on dvd. Good film or not, Dyer's
laid back style really stood out, and he brings the same
inept roguish charm to this movie. Rounding out the cast
(and speaking of rounding out) is 'luvvy it's okay to like'
Tim McInnerny - looking a bit jowely these days, but that's
no bad thing. It certainly helped sell him to me as Richard,
the team-leader who has obviously read a few too many management
manuals and is barely hanging onto the respect of his team.
from the start, tensions are running high in the group.
As with any office team there are power struggles and resentments,
but there's also sexual tension, even 'class' tension. The
film uses every conceivable angle to get you on the edge
of that flip up seat then pops the bubble with either a
laugh or a death – either way the release is often
Severance has been unofficially billed as Deliverance meets The Office, but it really has more
in common with Dog Soldiers and An
American Werewolf in London. Apart from one distinctly
dodgy gag involving an aeroplane (you'll know it when you
see it) the comedy is pitched perfectly to sit alongside
the horror – most memorably there are two dismemberment
gags in the space of 10 minutes and both are absolute corkers.
it's a comedy/horror – horror/comedy. If you like
Horror will you like it? Damn right, it's a cracking little
horror movie. Granted it's not doing anything new or clever
(unless like me you count making a good modern British horror
movie as a bit clever), but it's also not trying to do something
it hasn't got the budget to pull off. If comedy is your
thing will you like it? That depends if you like your comedy
washed down with a spot of the old ultraviolence. You do??
Well that's just wonderful...