Character actor Andy Serkis (below right) is best known for the computer-generated creatures he lent physicality in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, and King Kong,
but in his latest movie he meets perhaps his most formidable screen challenge to date — a
psychopathic farmer with a penchant for masks made of skin. Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, The Cottage is a strange little British cocktail of horror and bickering comedy, a movie done a grave disservice by a grisly DVD cover that sells it as something it’s not entirely.
Forced into hiding after their kidnapping of bratty spitfire Tracey (Jennifer Ellison, above center) goes awry,
at-odds siblings David (Serkis) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith, above
left) find themselves fighting for their sanity while they hole up in a
secluded country cottage. Refusing to stay quiet, foul-mouthed,
sweatpants-clad Tracey puts up quite a
ruckus, and once she susses out the involvement of her oafish stepbrother Andrew (Steven O’Donnell) in the $100,000 ransom plot, turns the tables on the guys, who find themselves somewhat held captive by their own
victim. That’s only half the story, though, as everyone’s problems soon go from bad to much worse when they all come
face-to-face with a towering, axe-wielding monstrosity who would feel very much at home with the families of The Devil’s Rejects and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The Cottage is essentially two films mashed together — one part screwball character-rooted caper, one part goosing, self-aware horror flick — and how one feels in gut-reaction fashion about that prospect very much informs one’s take on the movie as a whole. The first 30 to 35 minutes is very much about David and Peter’s complicated relationship, and the chemistry between Serkis (who gets to play hectoring and exasperated) and Shearsmith is a pleasure, reminding me, perhaps strangely enough, of Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane from The Producers. When things turn violent, though, director Williams doesn’t skimp on the gore, even as he plays things with a wink and a nod, tossing in amusing character bits (Peter is terrified by moths) and setting one frightened-flight sequence to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony in D Minor.” Powered by this weird, anything-can-happen vibe, The Cottage feels reminiscent (at least emotionally, hopefully not in any specifics) of the way bedtime stories mattered so much as a kid, when even boilerplate characters and silly twists could make you squirm in feeling delight. Trying to parse and make sense of some of the story choices and twists is a losing proposition, but The Cottage at least has an idiosyncratic stamp of personality, and that’s a welcome enough thing to make it a fun rental.
The Cottage comes in a regular Amray case with a cardboard slipcover, and is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese language Dolby digital 5.1 audio tracks, and optional subtitles in all the aforementioned tongues. Five minutes of outtakes highlight mangled lines and missed cues, while 12 minutes of deleted scenes, nine in total, showcase among other things a third, dead brother, “Smoking Joe,” who was excised from the movie early on, apparently during filming. There are also 11 preview trailers and two storyboard galleries, both involving Peter and Tracey crossing paths with the psychotic killer. Finally, as with Sony’s recent release of Hero Wanted, there’s also a free digital copy of the film,
which purchasers can transfer to their PC, PlayStation 3 or PSP
(PlayStation Portable) system, pending minimal memory requirements. The only thing missing, unfortunately, are some cast and/or crew interviews, which would seemingly be of extra interest given the wild-and-woolly tone of the material. For a couple sample clips of the movie, click here and here, respectively. To purchase the film via Amazon, meanwhile, click here. B- (Movie) B (Disc)