With a pre-credits slaughter sequence featuring two semi-naked Euro-birds trapped in a bear pit, Severance wastes no time exploding off the blocks. Classical music tinkering on the soundtrack, the enticing/horrifying intro sets the bar for the film’s inventive, controlled-chaos script – packed with larger-than-life (but all too recognisable) characters and, uh, gutsy humour that keep it going despite the occasional stumble. Another plus is Danny Dyer, wisely sticking to being Danny Dyer.
Anyone who’s ever been on a team-building expedition (“I can’t spell success without ‘u’ ”) will cringe/ laugh as Tim McInnerny’s idiot boss frogmarches his office geek (Andy Nyman), graduate posho (nostril-flaring Toby Stephens), hot fox (24’s Laura Harris), right-on bore (Claudie Blakley), sweet square (Babou Ceesay) and cheeky-chappie layabout (Dyer) off to Hungary for a weekend of outdoor activities. Broad-stroked backstories ensue, along with plenty of gags – both visual and verbal, clever and (gleefully) stupid – before Creep writer/director Chris Smith gets down to the blood-letting.
It’s here that things move up another gear, the tension ratcheting and the giggles turning to strangled gurgles as Severance veers between cruel gallows humour and gore. One of the characters quite literally loses his footing. Another loses his head. All are subjected to wince-inducing levels of distress, either carking it in horribly inventive ways or emerging bruised, battered and very, very bloodied.
Yet amid this who-dies-next? marathon, the spikes of comedy just keep on popping up: the accidental blowing-up of a passing 747, a body part being wedged into a fridge, dirty fights that resemble British hooligans on a lager-drenched holiday. And through it all, Dyer just keeps on getting better, his wideboy schtick working brilliantly in among the blood and guts until he closes this demented, destined-for-cult-status picture with a belter of a final line. As horror-comedies go, Severance is a cut above.