This was a real surprise. I'd bought it as the third option in a three for a fiver deal from the cheapo DVD emporium in town and had limited expectations about its quality. For starters it's got the much maligned Danny Dyer in it and the tag line 'The Office meets Deliverance' is hardly inspiring. But somewhat unexpectedly, this is a clever, funny and at times disturbing piece of British cinema.
Let's tackle the Danny Dyer issue straight away. I'd only ever seen Dyer in the Football Factory, another film I really enjoyed, where he plays a cheeky little cockney wide-boy in a tale of football hooligan related mayhem. Danny doesn't exactly expand his repertoire in Severance as he plays a cheeky little cockney wide-boy, but this time in a bizarre tale of comedy horror related mayhem. I've got to say that I liked him in this too, but if you want classically trained actors then he's possibly not the man for you.
The film centres on an office team building trip to Eastern Europe which soon goes pear-shaped as our heroes are confronted by a whole range of Baltic horrors with psychopathic tendencies. The seven main actors are all excellent and provide a sense of realism and unforced comedy. For anyone who has worked in an office environment the characters will be familiar enough and are generally well observed and suitably fleshed out. As the trip gradually descends into darkness and despair we can really empathise with the characters and see them change and develop as they encounter the various horrific situations.
It's a comic film, but if it is a comedy it's a very dark one. The villains are too close to real life for comfort and the characters are way too close to you and me for this to be a comfortable watch, but having said that, it's a hugely entertaining and enjoyable experience. The pick of the actors are the excellent Toby Stephens (Perfect Strangers), Tim McInnerny (Percy from Black Adder) and best of all the strong female lead of Laura Harris. She's tough and alluring in the film, but annoying and American in the extras; maybe she was acting in the movie. Maybe she should act that way all the time.
It's strangely multi-layered for a comedy-slasher and has more in common with Shaun of the Dead than either The Office or Deliverance. It's bloody, violent and creepy, but at the same time it's trashy and fun. I doubt it's for everyone, but I'd definitely recommend it if your expectations are not too high.
If you like this you could also try:
Wrong Turn, Triangle, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.