You'll laugh. You'll cringe. You'll groan and squirm in your seat. Written and directed by Christopher Smith, Severance is one of the funniest scary movies in memory. The pitch-perfect ensemble cast is exquisite as a busload of defense contractors out for a team-building retreat at a remote lodge in eastern Europe.
Things go wrong almost from the start, as the bus screeches to a halt en route. There is a tree down across the road. The driver refuses to follow an alternate route, disgorges the passengers and abandons them to fend for themselves in the woods. Ominous music ensues as they haul their luggage down the alternate road to what may be the lodge but probably is not.
Beset by a menace that is at first unseen but revealed over the course of this 2006 release, the ensemble engages in the cheekiest, most horrifying team-building retreat of all time. Grisly scenes overlap with high hilarity as Smith and company poke fun at the conventions of the genre.
Severance is one of those movies best seen in a theater with a large and partisan audience, such as the one I was part of Saturday night at the Orpheum Theater during the Wisconsin Film Festival. A handful of people walked out about half-way through the screening, a fact that could only add to one's enjoyment of Severance in the sense that people who walk out of a movie lend it a perverse validation and become part of your viewing experience.
That's not to say you won't want someone to cling to during the bloodiest scenes (although, to Smith's credit, he is somewhat discreet by the gratuitous contemporary standards of gore). A large audience also serves as a sheltering chorus when you find yourself laughing with other viewers in guilty pleasure at what may be the funniest, most outrageous beheading in the history of cinema.
Four thumbs up on a five-thumb scale.