Severance (Christopher Smith, 2006)
Well, let’s start out at the obvious starting-out point: Christopher Smith directs Danny Dyer. Obviously this isn’t enough to look a a movie and say “this is going to be a classic.” (And, spoiler alert: it isn’t.) But you’ve got Christopher Smith, whose specialty is taking tired old storylines and injecting them with new life, attacking the horror/comedy slasher film. What’s not to like? Even better, he got Danny Dyer to be in it (and Danny Dyer’s career in horror comedies got very, very busy after this). So you’ve already got a strong point before you start the movie.
The plot is fairly simple (and, as with all Christopher Smith outings, you’ve seen it before): a busload of corporate hacks are on their way to a country lodge for one of those team-building exercises. Something goes horribly wrong, they get off track, and end up wandering through the woods until they hit on what their manager believes to be the right lodge, creepy-looking and abandoned as it is… and eventually they realize that their resting place is not nearly as secluded as they think.
As it’s a Christopher Smith movie, you can bank on a few things. The script is going to contain all kinds of touches of humor that you might miss if you’re not paying attention (the bit with Danny Dyer and the tooth is hilarious), the twist ending is going to be loaded with irony, the cast is going to turn in excellent performances (in some cases the best in their careers). All of these things are true of Severance, and yet I found myself not liking it quite as much as I liked Black Death or Creep. I can’t quite tell you why this is. Maybe because I’m so much more familiar with the genre, or maybe because this genre’s been trod so many times that, let’s face it, there’s not a great deal Smith could do to revitalize it? (To be fair, while the big ironic twist is kind of predictable, it’s still funny as hell, in a grim sort of way.) And I certainly don’t mean to imply that I didn’t like the thing, or that it’s not a fun, watchable, addition to the Christopher Smith canon, because I did enjoy it, and if I were to stumble upon it while flipping channels at a friend’s house some night it’s something I would stick around and catch the end of again. But it doesn’t quite seem up to the standard Smith has set in his other movies. ***
Trailer. Not filmed by consultants.