Three people run panicking through a forest at dawn, two young women and a middle aged man, apparently being chased. Suddenly the women disappear into a trap: a concealed hole in the ground that has been dug too deep to get out of. The man appears at the top of the pit, but doesn't wish to hang about and save them, so hurries away and leaving the women to attempt their own escape by tying their clothes together and fastening them to a length of wood, then trying to hook it on one of the trees. Meanwhile, the man blunders into difficulty when he is caught in a different trap, this one leaving him hanging upside down as a figure with a large blade advances on him, then guts him. This is all very well, but what does it have to do with the team-building exercise held by Palisades weapons manufacturers?
Director and writer of Severance, Christopher Smith (who scripted with James Moran), followed up his promising debut with another horror film, but this one took a different tack. More of a comedy this time, the film adopted a world weary look at the dreaded office outing, where a bunch of work colleagues are ordered by those on the higher echelons of the corporate ladder to spend time, reluctantly or otherwise, indulging in paintball sessions and the like. And all in the name of team-building. But ironically, what happens to the Palisades team draws them closer together than any more conventional exercises could ever do.
Well, those who survive at any rate. We meet the group of employees just after the introduction, a range consisting of those who take it all far too seriously and those who are doing this solely because they have been told to by management. One of them is Steve (Danny Dyer), who is so nonchalant about everything that he takes magic mushrooms while on the bus to the lodge, but what's this? The driver, when faced with a fallen tree in the middle of the road, refuses to go any further despite there being a perfectly good road down which they can detour. In fact, the driver is so adamant that he's turning back that he leaves his passengers on the roadside.
They have a map, and their luggage to carry, but no way of knowing how long it will take to reach the lodge. They set off anyway, and on the way Steve begins to get paranoid - is this because of the mushrooms, or is someone out there following them? This poser is not much of a mystery after what we've seen in the first five minutes, but helps to increase the tension nonetheless. The lodge itself is a disappointment to the group, so much so that they're not even sure that they're in the right place, but there is a welcome pack in the lounge... which might have been put there by somebody unknown to Palisades... The irony of weapons manufacturers who wouldn't dream of using their own product themselves being in mortal danger is a clever one, and thankfully not overemphasised.
Severance is basically a slasher film with pretentions to comedy, so we're aware that this lot will get picked off one by one, though refreshingly they don't quite conform to the usual stereotypes; except maybe diehard company man and team leader Richard (Tim McInnerny). So well drawn are they that you don't want to see them bumped off particularly, as together they provide, if not belly laughs, then regular chuckles. However, this is a horror movie, and after an incident with a pie that Steve finds a human tooth in (after nearly swallowing it) and the right on Jill (Claudie Blakley) screaming after seeing a masked figure peering in through her bedroom window, they all decide to leave the next morning when it gets light. If they can. What follows involves half a leg, a severed head whose owner is interested to see how long he stays conscious, a wayward missile and any number of injuries and deaths. Funny when necessary and exciting at other times, the film may not break much new ground, but is a complete success on its own terms. Music by Christian Henson.
British writer and director with a penchant for the macabre. After making short films at film school, it was seven years before his first feature was released, the London Underground-set chiller Creep. He followed it with well-received comedy horror Severance and shipboard puzzle Triangle, then the medieval horror quest Black Death. As a change of pace, he next directed his own spin on Christmas, family fantasy Get Santa.