In 2004
Christopher Smith’s debut Creep was a TIFF Midnight Madness
pick I recommended, albeit with qualifications. For 2006 I’m happy to recommend
his second feature, Severance, with no qualifications at all. People are calling it
meets Deliverance, which is as good a way
as any to get asses in seats; and the movie is consistently hilarious, sick and
extremely well-made.


I guess
there is one possible qualification, but I’m not informed enough to call it. I
haven’t actually (cringes) seen The Office, so I can’t say if the
humor in Severance unfairly apes it, or legitimately carries on in the
same tradition. To me it doesn’t matter in the end, because I cackled all the
way through the film, both at the office politics nonsense and at Smith’s
occasionally political violence. (The most memorable RPG use of the year is
right here.)


Smith and
co-writer James Moran have come up with one of those simple storylines I like
because I don’t have to take notes to remember it. A boorish boss leads his
management team to a chalet for a weekend filled with fun (horrific) team
building exercises. But they arrive at a place that doesn’t look quite right,
and then the attacks begin in earnest. Scriptwise, it’s as much Friday
the 13th
as Deliverance, which is just fine, as Smith is excellent at
mixing up the gore and comedy.


And the
gore is here in spades: a severed foot, which leads to a very funny gag; the
worst stabbing in a long time; plenty of other shootings and various kills. But
the shock is how well Smith squeezes in laughs. The severed foot is a good
example, as it’s the end result of a bear trap entanglement that is alternately
gruesome and funny from one second to the next.


also a lot of old-fashioned squeamish humor that allows Smith’s actors to milk
the script for laughs and squirming discomfort simultaneously. And while the
general thrust of the story is far from original, work by Andy Nyman, Tim
McInnery and Laura Harris imbues more life than you’d expect. And Danny Dyer,
who’s generated no small about of ill will through simplistic mugging in the
past, turns his schtick into an unexpected heroic turn.


Like All
The Boys Love Mandy Lane
, this is a fully entertaining horror flick in
the old style. Smith has expressed his love for ’80s horror in the past, and
his devotion is obvious in Severance, where he emphasizes craft over any
radical new spin. And ultimately that proves successful, as I didn’t spend the
running time picking apart yet another none-too-clever spin on horror.


8.5 out of 10