Severance (Magnolia Pictures, R)

severance2Soon, though, they realize they aren't alone at the cabin when they find their bus driver murdered nearby. When they attempt to escape their prison in the woods, they are attacked by someone who is only out to kill them one by one.

severance

One of the characteristics that sets mainstream American filmmakers apart from the rest of the world of cinema is the rigid conformity to the predetermined rules and guidelines of film genres. If a movie has graphic depictions of sex, very rarely does it justify the encounters or portray them realistically. Similarly, most comedies don't explore underlying themes or world issues, instead focusing simply on slapstick puns or confused identities. (Remember, Borat is the brainchild of a British comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen.)

The shortcomings and predictability of American movies is what makes imports like Severance so enjoyable to watch. Straight from the U.K., the movie is equal parts horror/slasher film and comedy, balancing laughs perfectly with blood and gore, most of which looks too cartoonish to take seriously. The movie never takes itself seriously either, allowing the audience to simply enjoy it for what it is.

The plot is simple: a marketing team for an American weapons maker, Palisade Defense, has decided to take a retreat to a mountain lodge before launching their new campaign. The boss, Richard (Tim McInnerny), is the stereotypical stuffy suit whose allegiance to the company is unquestioned. He has in mind a weekend of team-building activities to bring his group closer together.

 Soon, though, they realize they aren't alone at the cabin when they find their bus driver murdered nearby. When they attempt to escape their prison in the woods, they are attacked by someone who is only out to kill them one by one.

The movie can hardly keep from winking at the audience and taking shots at itself. Not only are the serial killers imperfect (Who can get a match to light when they really need it?) , but every cheap horror movie tactic is employed so perfectly as to draw attention to how easily something works. The filmmakers have also officially come up with the most ridiculous reason for gratuitous female nudity.

The characters are nothing but rehashed versions of what we have seen before. Steve (Danny Dyer) is the slacker employee who does no work, yet somehow keeps his job, Harris (Toby Stephens) is the uptight chauvinist who refuses to listen to anyone but himself, and Gordon (Andy Nyman) is the class dork who no one can stand and sucks up to Richard as much as possible (think of a weaker, British version of Dwight K. Shrute).

The satire of the movie could easily go unnoticed, but is what makes the movie most enjoyable. The company is American, but we are on holiday with a marketing team from England. The only American characters are an actor on a corporate video (removed from all action) and Maggie (Laura Harris), the sexpot smartass who becomes the action star with superhuman strength.

Go into Severance expecting very little character or plot, but tons of laughs, blood and gore; think of Evil Dead II crossed with Old School, all of it sounding very reminiscent of Monty Python. | Matthew F. Newlin

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