A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bloody horror-comedy isn't for kids. It's full of explicit, grotesque violence and outrageous injuries (decapitation, a severed leg); weapons range from knives, guns, and ropes to missiles, hatchets, and bear traps. Also watch out for naked breasts (and one naked male bottom) and some brief-but-boisterous sex play when the boss cavorts with sex workers. Foul language includes "f--k" and "s--t," and characters smoke (one thin woman who's concerned about her weight opts for cigarettes instead of food) and use drugs, including Ecstasy, mushrooms, and pot.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Traveling by bus to a retreat in the Eastern European woods, the Palisade Defence sales team cheers their latest pitch for \"anti-personnel devices you can rely on\" and looks forward to their chance to \"find out about ourselves.\" Just then, they're abandoned by their driver, who's spooked by the scary woods. Resourceful in spite of their designer suits and Yuppie suitcases, the team members make their way to their appointed lodge. Not expecting to have to endure anything worse than a game of paintball, they soon learn they're under attack by someone using real weapons. The masked, looming, implacable assailants remain unidentified (possibilities include escaped asylum inmates and war criminals), but the sales team ends up bonding under their extreme duress. Although team leader Richard (Tim McInnerny) does his best to keep his troops motivated, they're soon wobbling between fear and despair, until at last they're inspired by desperation.
Is it any good?
A rowdy horror-comedy combo, SEVERANCE takes dual aim at global arms dealing and mundane office politics. Director Chris Smith's movie is at once gleeful and graphic (the joke extends to a mock Web site extolling the firm's motto: "We're hitting a home run for freedom and giving terrorism a time out!"). No one on the team looks a likely hero: Steve (Danny Dyer) gets high on mushrooms, social-minded Jill (Claudie Blakley) seems like a poor fit for the company, and executive assistant Billy (Babou Ceesay) is African American --- and thus, according to the rules of this spoofy genre picture, doomed.
Though she initially looks wan and self-interested, it's Maggie (Laura Harris, the sweet-looking blond terrorist from Season 2 of 24) who ultimately proves angry and resilient, exhorting her colleagues to fight back ... even when one loses his leg in a bear trap, another is burned alive by a flamethrower, and others are subjected to horrific torture. While the survivors begin to show gumption, the killers remain dark, lurking, cartoonish incarnations of existential payback for the arms dealers' crass profiteering. The point may not be subtle, but it is fairly satisfying (arms dealers are, after all, pretty easy to hate). Although Severance's lost-in-the-woods terror is a familiar plot premise, it offers clever dialogue, sharp performances, and some outrageous gross-out humor. And while it's not for the faint of heart, it is, in the end, strangely heartening.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this is a comedy, a horror movie, or both. What is it making fun of? What makes those topics good material for a black comedy? Can you think of other movies and TV shows that mock office politics? What about other movies that combine humor and violence? Is it OK to laugh at bloody wounds and brutal killings?
- In theaters: May 17, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: September 18, 2007
- Cast: Claudie Blakely, Danny Dyer, Toby Stephens
- Director: Christopher Smith
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, language, drug content and some sexuality/nudity.
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