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Working nine to five is a real killer, but office outings can be even worse. A coach lurches out of bustling Budapest, heading for the mountainous border. Aboard are seven employees of international weapons manufacturer Palisade Defence, global suppliers of innovative weaponry for the past 75 war-torn years. The lucky group is being treated to a team-building weekend at the company's newly-built luxury spa lodge. But things quickly go awry as the colleagues find their corporate weekend is sabotaged by a deadly enemy. Forget office politics, only the smartest will survive this bloody office outing! Directed and co-written by Christopher Smith (Creep).
 

  Severance

I can’t remember exactly when my love of horror began, but I can vaguely remember, at the age of seven, sneaking downstairs while my parents were sleeping to watch Curse of the Werewolf with Oliver Reed, then sneaking back upstairs scared senseless to confess what I had done. I remember reading Dracula while everyone else was reading Enid Blighton and I remember the day we got our first VCR.

It was 1981; I was 12 years old. My family gathered round to unpack a beautiful, shiny, silver, top-loading Sanyo that had freeze frame, fast-forward and the ability to record one side while watching the other. If only my mother had known the filth that would pass through that machine.

That same night we piled into our family car and drove to the video store. For those who have grown up in the digital revolution it’s hard to describe the excitement of hiring a video. The ability to pick a film, as you would choose a novel at the school library, was to me a revelation.

As my sister tried to convince my mother that American Gigolo was not that rude, I made my way to the horror section. This was two years before the “Video Nasties Act” was passed in the U.K., a government bill brought in to protect innocents from seeing films that, through a loophole, had escaped the censor. It was the time that would become known as “the good old days,” the swinging ’60s for the gore bores. Titles like Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, Cannibal Apocalypse, Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left were not only available but also uncut.

While my sister conceded and hired Yanks, I studied the backs of the video boxes to see which movies looked the goriest. I was already hatching a plan and it involved my trusting father. That weekend, while my mother was at work, my friends and I took him to the store and hired Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jaws 2. He had heard of Jaws 2 and was worried it would scare us but he hadn’t heard of the others.

Looking back now I realize a big part of the pleasure of watching these movies was that I was doing something illicit. My friends and I were watching something that was intended for adults and we weren’t even 13.

I think the reason why many people lose their love of the genre when they become adults is that this illicitness disappears, but why then has horror had such a recent revival? I think the answer lies in the fact that the films are becoming that much more demented and sadistic. Films like Hostel, Saw and the Asian films Audition and Oldboy make adult audiences squirm all over again and have them talking about scenes afterwards, just like they did when they were at school.

I carried this sense over into my new film Severance. Comedy horrors usually fall into one of two camps: comedies with a splash of horror like Shaun of the Dead or Scary Movie, or horror movies with a splash of comedy like Scream. With Severance I wanted to walk straight down the middle of the line so that the film would be equally scary and laugh out loud funny. There’s a scene in the film where a character gets his leg caught in a bear trap. As his friend tries to help free him, they keep slipping and letting the jaws of the trap snap back onto his leg. This goes on and on and on and with each snap the audience gets a new emotion, ranging from horror to comedy to comedy to horror, because for me the two are always intrinsically linked. You laugh because you shouldn’t, and because you shouldn’t, you laugh more.

There’s a scene in the movie where a character accidentally shoots a passenger plane out of the sky with a ground-to-air missile; it gets one of the biggest laughs. I remember the financiers in England tried to cut the scene on the basis that an American audience would find it offensive and in bad taste. I fought and won the battle and then screened it at American film festivals. What happened? It got one of the biggest laughs. Why? Because it’s wrong. It pushes the boundaries of what’s considered good taste. You can actually feel the audience saying to themselves as the missile goes up, “Oh no, I can’t believe he’s going to do that—he did do that—I can’t believe it—that’s funny!” And it’s funny because it goes against what is deemed acceptable and it therefore becomes an illicit pleasure.

I feel nostalgic thinking back to those teenage years. Did that lost youth watching horror scar me in the way the right wing press would have us believe? Certainly not. It did give me a twisted sense of humour and it certainly desensitized me to violence, but only the kind that begins with the term “action” and ends with “cut.”