DVD Tuesday: Severance demonstrates that corporate team-building retreats aren't just wastes of time and an excuse to squander money on high-priced consultants - they're honest-to-God murder!
Severence DVD box art courtesy Magnolia Home Entertainment
Halloween is almost over, and how could I let it pass without recommending
just one more
scary movie? But non-horror buffs take heart:
, like three other recent favorites of mine,
Shaun of the Dead
(2006), is both genuinely funny and genuinely scary. Contrary to what many filmmakers seem to think, it's a tough mix to pull off... but when you get it right, it's magic.
The setup is a horror-movie standard: Strand a squabbling cross-section of humanity in the middle of nowhere (old dark house, uncharted island, lost space scow, desert shack, unmapped cave complex
) and unleash hell on them. And who better to unleash hell on than a pack of slick sales-and-marketing types, say, the seven-person team responsible for putting a kinder, gentler face on amoral multinational arms manufacturer Palisades Defense while helping launch the company's initiative to fatten its coffers by arming Eastern Europe's most volatile hot spots? The team leader is a pompous tool, and his underlings include all the standard types: The arrogant beta dog snapping at the boss' heels, the idealist (female), the computer whiz, the one with qualms (also female), and a couple of slackers, one of whom is high on magic mushrooms before they get to their destination, a "luxury lodge" deep in the forests of Hungary you know, somewhere in the same general area as Slovakia and its fantastic hostels.
The bus driver manning their luxury caravan freaks out when he finds a tree blocking the main road and wisely refuses to take the detour, so the group is forced to walk the rest of the way to a gloomy dump chockablock with nasty surprises.
U.K. cowriter and director Christopher Smith's pointed digs at office politics and the transparent exercises that are supposed to build team spirit and teach cooperation and trust are dead-on, and the trap-them-and-kill-them shocks don't pull any punches.
Even the none-too-subtle irony of the pencil pushers getting a taste of what their products do in real life plays remarkably well. I'll refrain from the kind of "you'll die laughing" clichés much loved by quote whores and simply say that for my money,
delivers on the promise of its deadpan U.K. ad tagline: "Another bloody office outing."
Things to consider:
Humor and horror: Examples of films that mix the two successfully?
Worst examples of films that try but fail?
Given how much time we spend at work and how many of us work in office jobs, movies - especially good ones - about the nine-to-five are relatively rare. My favorites include
Glengarry Glen Ross
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
(1989) and the ultra low-budget
The New Guy
(2003) I must confess that I've never seen
(1999), which I know regularly tops lists. Your favorites?
Send your movie questions to
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See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the
Previously in DVD Tuesday:
Sweet Smell of Success
Daughters of Darkness
A Simple Plan
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Gone in 60 Seconds
Bob le Flambeur
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Devil Wears Prada
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
In Cold Blood
This week's new DVD releases