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Severance Influences

A list of works that may have influenced and inspired the writers, designers, and creators of the TV show, Severance.

Influence listings should be labeled as Confirmed or Unconfirmed and include a link to a source that verifies the confirmation.

If you are looking for shows, movies, books, and other works in the style of Severance or with a Severance “vibe”, please see the page, Shows and Movies like Severance.


A Matter of Life and Death (1946; retitled Stairway to Heaven)

A British wartime aviator who cheats death, Peter, must argue for his life before a celestial court, hoping to prolong his fledgling romance with an Allied radio operator, June, with whom he shared what he believed to be his final moments on Earth.

Unconfirmed. Mentioned to Dan Erickson in AMA here: (link) Erickson did not confirm or deny the influence.

Brazil (1985)

Low-level bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) escapes the monotony of his day-to-day life through a recurring daydream of himself as a virtuous hero saving a beautiful damsel. Investigating a case that led to the wrongful arrest and eventual death of an innocent man instead of wanted terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), he meets the woman from his daydream (Kim Greist), and in trying to help her gets caught in a web of mistaken identities, mindless bureaucracy and lies.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson Inverse April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

Dark City

A man awakens in a hotel bathtub, with amnesia. He receives a phone call from another man, who urges him to flee the hotel to evade a group of men who are after him, and he discovers the corpse of a ritualistically murdered woman along with a bloody knife in the room. He struggles in a nightmarish world no one else ever seems to wake up from.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

Playtime (1968)

A man curiously wanders around a futuristic, hyper-consumerist Paris. In one of the six chapters, Hulot arrives at one of the glass and steel buildings for an important meeting but gets lost in a maze of disguised rooms and offices, eventually stumbling into a trade exhibition of lookalike business office designs and furniture nearly identical to those in the rest of the building.

The Matrix (1999)

A world-class hacker is contacted by a mysterious figure who offers him two choices: A red pill, which will allow him to break out of his perceived reality and discover the truth of his world, or a blue pill, which will make him fall back into the illusion of the Matrix none the wiser.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson Slashfilm April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

The Truman Show (1998)

He doesn't know it, but everything in Truman Burbank's life is part of a massive TV set. Reality is “The Truman Show,” a live broadcast of Truman's every move captured by hidden cameras. Producer Cristof tries to control Truman's mind, even removing his true love from the show and replacing her with a vetted actor. As Truman gradually discovers the truth, however, he must decide whether to act on it.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson Slashfilm. Inverse April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

Joe vs The Volcano (1990)

Joe Banks is dying, but his life wasn't much worth living anyway. A strange millionaire offers Joe a way to die with meaning and dignity: by hurling himself into a volcano. Joe embarks on an absurdist journey to his demise, guided by two very disparate sisters, and trying to puzzle out the meaning of existence.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

Office Space (1999)

Peter, thanks to a hypnotic suggestion, decides not to participate in work any longer. He and two of his fellow software engineers have had enough of the daily grind working their dull, mundane jobs and decide to rebel against their greedy boss.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson SlashfilmGame Rant Inverse April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

Naked Lunch (1991)

A 1959 novel by William S. Burroughs. Lee, eluding arrest, discovers the fictional state of Freeland, where all life is well-ordered and hygienic. Following a riot in a Freeland psychological reconditioning center, Lee flees to Interzone, where he encounters bizarre orgies, medical experiments involving giant centipedes, and pornographic performances.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

Red Desert

Amid modern wastelands and toxic factories, Giuliana desperately tries to conceal her tenuous grip on reality from those around her, and before long her mental state rapidly deteriorates. Director Antonioni said of his first film, “The neurosis I sought to describe in Red Desert is above all a matter of adjusting. There are people who do adapt, and others who can't manage, perhaps because they are too tied to ways of life that are by now out-of-date.”

Confirmed by Jessica Lee Gagné Mashable

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

A lengthy space epic wherein space travelers' days are highly structured to ensure the continued success of the mission and to make sure that nothing goes wrong. The ship's artificial intelligence, HAL, sabotages the mission and brings about its own existential crisis as well as endangering the humans aboard.

Themes in 2001 include dreams, hopes, and plans, isolation, mortality, technological innovation's possibilities and perils, and time.

Confirmed by Ben Stiller. TODO: Source needed. (Variety interview)

Confirmed by Jeremy Hindle IndieWire


The Backrooms

A creepypasta online urban legend and one of the most well-known examples of the Internet aesthetic of liminal spaces, which depicts usually busy locations as unnaturally empty,

Confirmed by Dan Erickson. Game Rant Inverse

No Exit

A 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre. It begins with three characters who find themselves waiting in a mysterious room. It is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity. It is the source of Sartre's especially famous phrase “L'enfer, c'est les autres” or “Hell is other people.”

Confirmed by Dan Erickson April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

The Stanley Parable

A first person adventure game. When a simple-minded individual named Stanley discovers that the co-workers in his office have mysteriously vanished, he sets off to find answers. You play as Stanley, and you do not play as Stanley.You make a choice, and you have your choices taken from you. The game will end, the game will never end. Contradiction follows contradiction, the rules of how games should work are broken, then broken again. You are not there to win. The Stanley Parable is a game that plays you.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson Inverse April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson

The Metamorphosis

One of Kafka's best-known works, Metamorphosis tells the story of salesman Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect and subsequently struggles to adjust to this new condition. Confirmed by Dan Erickson April 21 Reddit AMA with Dan Erickson


Confirmed by Jessica Lee Gagné NBC News

Confirmed by Ben Stiller Backstage Magazine

Director Wong Kar-wai

Confirmed by Jessica Lee Gagné Mashable


Confirmed Jeremy Hindle Gold Derby Signal Horizon IndieWire

Design Style


Confirmed by Ben Stiller Backstage Magazine

Confirmed by Jeremy Hindle Gold Derby

Dilbert comic strips

Comic strip first published in 1989, known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office with engineer Dilbert as the title character.

Confirmed by Dan Erickson Inverse

influences.txt · Last modified: 2023-03-16 05:54 by Scribe of Kier