What I Watched 3.20.11: SEVERANCE (2006).

Posted: March 22, 2011 in Horror, Movies (S), What I Watched


There’s a part of me that wishes this movie to be a documentary about Joan Severance, the actress and model who starred in many late-night cable movies of the 1980s and 1990s.  (That part of me is due south.)

But Severance is a horror-comedy-horror movie from director Christopher Smith, whose movies I have been catching up on for the past few days.  What I like about what he does is that you can’t quite pin down what he does.  He works under the general banner of horror, but between Creep, this, and Black Death (I will be watching Triangle next), it’s clear that he isn’t interested in repeating himself.  Creep is a deadpan account of a young woman being terrorized in an underground train station, Black Death is an eerie period piece about Europe in the 14th century, and Severance is gory gross-out horror that also is more than halfway a comedy.

The tone of Severance is grim but very, drily, arch.  The story involves a group of British and American businesspeople on a company team-building getaway, which is really a flimsy excuse to get a bunch of white-collar uptights up into the woods at a remote cabin where they can eventually get picked apart by an assailant of mysterious origins.  You probably wouldn’t recognize many of the cast members, besides The Faculty’s Laura Harris, Toby Stephens (the ‘young Clint’ from Space Cowboys) and Black Death’s Tim McInnerny and Andy Nyman, but they all hit the perfect tone.  Severance is much more serious than The Office (as the DVD box associates it with), but much less serious than Hostel or whatever other torture-horror it might get compared to.

It’s worth a late-night watch or two, but it’s not Chris Smith’s best (so far that’d be his first movie and also his latest).  Severance feels like a tonal exercise for its talented director, rather than a major work or a new cult classic.  It has crisp, appealing cinematography by Ed Wild, snappy editing by Stuart Gazzard, and a superior score by Christian Henson (later Smith’s composer on Black Death.)  The movie has a fun, gleefully anarchic tone at the beginning, but the pace slackens at the middle, and the last third is solidly-done but rather standard (even if the idea for the villain is relatively original, and certainly indicative of Smith’s thematic and satirical goals.)  I liked it but I didn’t love it.  I’m still extremely enthusiastic about giving Triangle a spin though, and about watching Black Death again sometime soon.


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