Death in service benefits


3.5 Stars  2006/15/92m

“Heads will roll.”

Director/Writer: Christopher Smith / Writer: James Moran / Cast: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tom McInnerny, Toby Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay, David Gilliam, Juli Drajko, Kaite Johns.

Body Count: 15

Dire-logue: “There are about five seriously sick fuckers on their way to kill us. So you can either help us… or fuck off.”

If you’ve ever worked for a large corporation, you’ll know just how brain-meltingly laborious it can be with a multitude of targets, objectives, appraisals, measurements, and general profit-bef0re-people manifesto. It can suck.

Occasionally you get a freebie, good dental or days out of the office for “team building” exercises (this has happened thrice in the twelve years I’ve been enslaved to my faceless employer). These normally sound good in theory, but are often capped with an array of caveats. You can have this fun, but you’ll have to return the favour by doing X-amount of work afterwards.

In Severance, seven employees of Pallisade, a weapons contractor, are touring Eastern Europe for promotional purposes. Nobody really wants to be there besides useless manager Richard, and the every-perky Gordon, whose unrelenting enthusiasm would probably prompt Ghandi to wrap his fingers around his neck.

Somewhere in the woodlands of Hungary/Serbia/Romania (nobody is sure where), the group are abandoned by their jittery coach driver on route to the “luxury lodge” a senior manager has provided for them. Instead, they find themselves hauled up at a rundown chalet and soon hunted by a large squad of insane militants, who harbour a deadly grudge against Pallisade.

A game of paintball turns grisly and the group are soon set upon by the maniacs, with one icky demise following another, until only office slacker Steve (professional geezer Dyer) and American spank-bank feature Maggie fight back with a frenzied gusto. Smith dreams up some interesting scenarios and it’s really good to see characters NOT develop super powers when fighting back, which lends nicely to Steve’s fight with one of the loons, that culminates in a memorable – and painful – knife up the ass.

Elements of any number of slasher/survival films creep into the mix and there’s the definite presence of Office-style observational humour, reflected largely in the acid wit and obvious dislike several characters have for one another. Everybody detests Richard (“I can’t spell success…without u, and u, and u, and u…”), high-flier Harris continually attempts to exert his authority, shy Billy ponders his feelings towards Maggie, and bored Jill tries to keep her eyes open and her mouth shut.

Severance certainly LOOKS good, with some nostalgic POV camera work from behind overhanging branches harking back to Jason in the woods. The dialogue and comic relief is on point, but occasionally thwarts the horror, which seems lacking in substance once the slaughter begins. That said, the whole mundaneness of corporate employment is captured in the dull attitude most of the group have towards everything: they’re jaded, unlike the busloads of campers who rolled into Camp Crystal Lake summer after summer…

Dyer’s layabout is effective though its his standard schtick, but he at least makes for an interesting central character, and the fate of some of the more marginalised characters was certainly a refreshing change, not to mention the sight of a half-naked stripper machine-gunning her way through a pack of insurgents. It’s even a little bit sad in parts, most notably when Billy uses his last gasp to stop Maggie from giving herself away.

A definite improvement on Smith’s earlier film, Creep, and also a damn sight better than the subsequent Triangle, hopefully a future bodycount opus he’s involved with will be more in line with this.

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