The Cottage


The gimmick of this energetic Brit-com is that the action

switches, approximately halfway through, from comic crime drama to comic

splatter movie. The main problem, then, is that The Cottage, against the odds, makes a better caper movie than gore flick. The first half-hour or so is an

engaging and amusing farce about kidnappers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter

(Reece Shearsmith), who drive to a secluded house with their hostage, Tracey

(Jennifer Ellison) bound and gagged in the trunk. It’s not the best plan — the outrageously busty Tracey may be the daughter of a gangster, but she’s a terrible hostage, strong-willed and foul-mouthed. She knows David on sight. And their inside man, Tracey’s brother Andrew, is a dimwit who brings the whole scheme tumbling down on top of them. About the time the car pulls up outside with a couple of Chinese hit men out for blood, The Cottage has established itself as a credibly tense comedy.

But writer/director Paul Andrew Williams lets the whole

thing unravel from there. What had been a study of several characters huddled

together in a single location as figurative storm clouds gathered outside

suddenly broadens in scope, as our various protagonists head out in separate

directions. The focus only narrows again when Peter and Tracey stumble across a

hideously disfigured farmer apparently living in the cellar of a nearby cottage

— and that’s when The Cottage becomes a fairly straightforward slasher movie, as said murderous psychopath stalks the movie’s cast, taking them out one by

one in well-lit and lavishly revolting shots executed by make-up effects

designer Paul Hyett (The Descent, Doomsday, and Williams’ own previous London to Brighton).

I wouldn’t say the film loses its sense of humor, exactly —

the final shot before the credits roll is a darkly, wickedly funny send-off — but

it sticks too slavishly to the Friday the 13th template (implacable,

superhuman killer) to have as much fun as it should with its own premise and

characters. (I’ll admit that my interest flagged, big time, once Farmer John

took out Tracey, who had been adding some welcome vigor to the proceedings.) Part

of the appeal of Shaun of the Dead, for example, was in watching its cast of

nerdy misfits band together in an attempt to navigate a zombie holocaust. These

folks are just picked off one by one like the fundamentally hapless misfits

they are. While some of

the killings are amusingly over-the-top — I liked the one where the guy gets

his brain and spinal column ripped out, Mortal Kombat-style — The Cottage never approaches the wit or creativity of other horror-comedy high-water marks. Still, fans of horror and/or British comedy will find more giggles here

than general audiences, and misanthropes may have a ball. C+

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