Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary; ‘Making of’ featurette; Deleted scenes with audio commentary; Outtakes; Easter Egg – swear count; Theatrical trailer; Photo gallery; Biographies.
WRITER-director Paul Andrew Williams blew everyone away with his gritty, breathless debut London To Brighton, so anticipation was extremely high surrounding his follow-up The Cottage.
But the ensuing comedy horror is a diabolical affair that’s bereft of originality, devoid of any reason for being and unrelentingly violent to boot.
The film picks up as bickering brothers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith) arrive at a secluded country cottage with their loud-mouthed kidnap victim Tracey (Jennifer Ellison) in tow. The cottage in question is being used as a rendezvous point for them to meet Tracey’s step-brother Andrew (Steven O’Donnell), who is also in on the scheme, but when he arrives with the ransom money it quickly becomes clear they have all been deceived.
As the blackmail spirals out of control, Tracey manages to turn the tables on her kidnappers and escapes with Peter as her hostage, fleeing into the woods where she finds something altogether more sinister is lurking. It isn’t long before everyone faces a desperate battle for survival as a horribly disfigured local farmer wreaks bloody mayhem.
Williams claims The Cottage exists to explore the bond that exists between brothers – but while early scenes between Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith show plenty of potential, this quickly gets lost amid the director’s insatiable appetite for over the top humour and gore.
Once the splattering begins, it’s a thrill-free ride that lifts from countless horror sources, whether classic (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Predator, An American Werewolf in London), contemporary (Severance) or somewhere in between (From Dusk Til Dawn).
This might not have been more bearable had Williams delivered a character worth caring for, but Serkis and Shearsmith spend too much time bickering to really endear themselves and Ellison’s blackmail victim is every bit as monstrous as the main killer himself (an expletive-heavy Liverpudlian who pretty much deserves everything she gets).
Attempts by Williams to compensate for some of the genre familiarity by tossing in some quirks also backfire, as a running gag involving Shearsmith’s fear of moths really has no grounding in logic, and a late, late post-credits cameo from a well-known British star seems pointless given that most people will have fled the cinema long before he appears.
Williams may claim that The Cottage represents a respectful homage to the films he’s clearly copying but it lacks the finesse of material like Shaun of The Dead and feels like a cheap cash-in instead.
Coming from a director who exhibited so much potential with his debut, this has to rate alongside Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales as one of the worst sophomore efforts of recent times.
Running time: 91mins
UK DVD Release: July 14, 2008