Severance offers up a perfect blend of Slasher film and comedy. I`m a real sucker for horror-comedies done right, but they are exceedingly rare. The key—established by the granddaddy of all horror-comedies, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein—is to play the characters for laughs but keep the horror deadly serious. Severance does exactly that.
With the exception of a highly effective prologue, the first half of the film is almost pure comedy as we’re introduced to a busload of employees on their way to a corporate retreat. They work for a defence contractor, a fact made clear by a hilarious video narrated by the Big Boss, whom they`ll be meeting at the chalet, deep in the woods.
The characters are all well-defined—imagine the gang from The Office (British or American, but minus the mockumentary feel) headed off for a weekend of team-building but stumbling into an encounter with one or more Slashers. That right there is essentially what you get here.
The laughs are both blatant and subtle. One of my favorites was a sort of flashback scene filmed in a style that brings to mind silent horror films like Nosferatu.
The hints that something isn’t quite right come slowly at first, but serve to build tension effectively until, two thirds of the way in, the movie abandons most of the laughs for some genuinely intense sequences, including plenty of gore.
But throughout, the filmmakers manage to pepper the film with some humor, ensuring that the fun quotient remains high from start to finish. Characters get killed, dismembered, even tortured, but Severance never gets too dark, always ready to have a character throw out a well-timed one-liner, allowing the viewer to breathe a chuckle or two between gasps.
Severance isn’t a Slasher film in the purest sense—there’re simply too many firearms to qualify—but it uses enough of the Slasher conventions to satisfy most fans of the sub-genre. The tension is built slowly and expertly, the kills are sudden and gory, and the Final Girl (though not technically “final”) is capable and intelligent. And on top of it all, the film is damn funny.
Few horror-comedies blend the two genres perfectly, but Severance actually does it one better: it functions as a great comedy, independent of the horror, and as an excellent Slasher, comedy aside.
Length: 96 min