Blending fierce horror and sly humour, Christopher Smith’s confident follow-up to the more generic ‘Creep’ marks a quantum leap forward for the young British filmmaker. A smart riff on the ‘survival horror’ movie, it dumps seven penpushers from an international weapons manufacturer in a Hungarian forest for a team-building exercise that rapidly goes dangerously pear-shaped. Holed up in a concrete building that may once have been a lunatic asylum, or perhaps a deprogramming centre for violent Soviet war criminals, Tim McInnerny’s stiff, socially inept office manager tries to rally his disaffected staff. But paintball fun turns serious when they find themselves on the wrong end of their own military weaponry. Psycho soldiers brandishing flame-throwers, guns and knives also make deadly use of bear-traps and landmines. Taking time to establish both the individual characters and the shifting group dynamic that defines their professional and personal relationships, the script by Smith and James Moran deftly succeeds in ‘threading comedy through a horror dynamic’. The grafted-on political dimension is not so well developed, the scenes featuring two topless ‘Balkan babes’ are smutty and adolescent, and a dodgy visual gag about an errant ground-to-air missile misfires badly. Otherwise, Smith handles the shifts of tone with skill, and the fraught relationships with surprising sensitivity. An early, painful death for Danny Dyer’s irritating Cockney joker would have improved matters, but one ends up rooting for other ensemble cast members – McInnerny’s hapless boss, Toby Stephens’ arrogant but vulnerable public-school tosser, Claudie Blakley’s self-deluding lefty subversive, Andy Nyman’s twitchy office geek, and Babou Ceesay’s likeably self-effacing Billy – before they are dispatched in horrible ways.
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