Severance Christopher Smith

This UK horror romp has its tongue planted only halfway in cheek; it keeps jumping between serious genre entry and jokey free-for-all, and the opposing sides often cancel each other out. The European sales division of a British military contractor has been rewarded with a team-building getaway somewhere in Eastern Europe, but they take the proverbial wrong turn at Albuquerque and find themselves in a ramshackle house being hunted down by persons unknown. At least, that’s where it finally arrives — the film takes forever to get to the gory goods, choosing instead to get to know the non-characters (the clumsy executive, lecherous druggie, super-hot American woman, etc.) as they wonder "what’s going on?” and trade some rather thin jokes. It’s not terrible but it’s hard to invest in the caricatured heroes or buy the extremely feeble digs at the defence industry that are used as provocations for the killing. Once it gets to the flesh-rending, the picture does okay, but director Christopher Smith is no Raimi or Hooper and thus his efforts plod when they ought to move at a breakneck clip. I could remark on the ascendant use of Eastern Europe as a backwater teeming with sadists (a double bill with Hostel is probably inevitable), but it’s hard to rally symptomatic analysis when the filmmakers aren’t particularly interested in anything other than limp humour and sub-Aliens action. Expect nothing and you could kill some pleasant time, but I’m getting a little tired of snickering horror directors so afraid of failure that they cut the carnage with bad one-liners. At some point, the genre has to return to meaning business, and the current choice of bad remakes or camp joking isn’t helping things. (Christal)