Combining comedy and horror is no easy task, but strike the right balance and you'll have fans of both genres clamoring for more. Though director Christopher Smith's Raw Meat-inspired 2004 shocker, Creep, was scarce with the laughs, it did display a vicious streak a mile wide while showing a filmmaker who was willing to take a few well-calculated risks to rile up the viewer. Now Smith has returned, a bit more confident in his abilities as a director, and ready to have a little more fun. The result: a smart, slaphappy shocker that begins tightening the screws from scene one and refuses to let up as it follows a well-drawn group of characters on a fight for their lives against some seriously sadistic predators. Whereas Creep was straightforward in its intentions to frighten the viewer through a series of briskly paced set pieces, this time around Smith, collaborating brilliantly with co-screenwriter James Moran, seems eager to toy with viewers and never truly allow them to gain their footing until his characters have ventured well beyond the point of no return. Tension is consistently balanced by sucker-punch gags that are both gruesome and highly effective, and the manner in which Smith paces his shocks ensures that viewers will never know what is coming next -- a jump or a laugh.
The manner in which the typically office-bound drones interact and attempt to assess their increasingly dire situation in a decidedly non-florescent environment is well-complimented by a talented cast of actors as well. From Danny Dyer's likeable, psychotropic mushroom-muncher to Toby Stephens' self-absorbed yuppie scumbag, Laura Harris' blonde and bold American, and Tim McInnerny's clueless company CEO, it's obvious that the performers are having as much fun playing the characters as the writers did crafting them. With Severance Smith has not only obliterated any concerns of a sophomore slump, but also placed himself atop the short list of horror filmmakers who possess the potential to adapt and expand into other arenas of filmmaking as well. Whatever cinematic excursion Smith dreams up next, it's certain to be an interesting and exhilarating ride.