by Jason Coffman
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Sometimes it’s hard to be a horror film fan. Every year, there are countless horror movies released that beg for your time, and there is never enough time to watch them all. Marketers know an easy way to get someone’s attention is by pitching a film as being “for fans of” a popular film. Most of the time, these “for fans of” movies end up bearing only a superficial resemblance (at best) to those other films, with hardly any of the qualities that garnered fans for the other films in the first place.
For example, when I say that The Cottage is a British horror comedy, many horror fans can easily guess the reference points that pop up in the marketing: Shaun of the Dead and Severance. Unfortunately, The Cottage bears only a superficial resemblance (at best) to either of those popular films. It has a bit more in common with Severance: a UK production that takes place in and around a dark forest and dilapidated house and mixes gruesome horror and comedic elements. As for Shaun of the Dead, well—they’re both British.
The film opens with bumbling kidnappers Peter (Reece Shearsmith) and David (Andy Serkis) hiding out in an old cottage and waiting for their plans to come together. Their victim is the shrill, hateful Tracey (Jennifer Ellison), daughter of Arnie (Doug Bradley, in a pointless post-credits cameo), a crime boss who runs a strip club David frequents. Timid Peter is only in on the plan so David will give up his share of their deceased mother’s house; David wants the ransom money to buy a boat and sail away from his sordid past. Tracey manages to turn the tables on Peter and forces him out into the forest while David and the third kidnapper Andrew (Steve O’Donnell) are distracted. In the forest they find a seemingly abandoned house inhabited by a very ugly Farmer (Dave Legeno in some truly awful makeup) who does not like trespassers.
The Cottage feels like two films uneasily shoved together—half comedy of errors, half slasher film. As for its references, it supplies the blood but sadly lacks the satirical bite of Severance (with its white-collar weapons-manufacturer office workers) or the endearing characters of Shaun of the Dead. In fact, none of the characters in The Cottage are particularly sympathetic or even interesting. It’s almost as if writer/director Paul Andrew Williams didn’t want audiences feeling too bad about any of the characters getting knocked off during the film’s violent third act, so he prevents the audience from identifying with any of them. And so despite a few creepy moments and some effective gore effects, The Cottage mostly just reminds horror fans that they could be watching something else that does something truly unique.
The Cottage releases on DVD May 13th. The DVD includes nine deleted scenes that feature a character and running theme cut from the film as well as more gore, none of which would have much improved the film. Other features include an outtake reel, storyboards, and a bonus digital copy of the film to transfer from the DVD to PC or PSP.
Jason Coffman is a film critic living in Chicago.
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