Director/Screenplay – Paul Andrew Williams, Producers – Ken Marshall & Martin Pope, Photography – Christopher Ross, Music – Laura Rossi, Visual Effects – Filmgate, Makeup Effects – Paul Hyett Make-Up Effects Ltd. (Design – Paul Hyett), Production Design – Crispian Sallis. Production Company – Steel Mill Pictures
Andy Serkis (David), Reece Shearsmith (Peter), Jennifer Ellison (Tracey), Steve O’Donnell (Andrew), Logan Wong (Muk Li San), Jonthan Chan-Pensley (Chun Yo Fu), David Legeno (The Farmer), Simon Schatzberger (Steven), Doug Bradley (Villager with Dog)
David, a nightclub bouncer, and his ineffectual brother Peter have kidnapped Tracey, the stepdaughter of his boss Arnie. They make her prisoner in a cottage in the countryside while they call to demand a ransom. However, things do not go according to plan – she proves more feisty than they anticipated and their scheme is beset by a constant series of blunders. Arnie sends his son Andrew, who is also in on the plot, with the money but they open the bag to find it filled with tissue paper. Two Chinese gang members have also sent to rescue Tracey and kill the others. In the midst of the chaos, Tracey makes an escape with Peter a prisoner. However, as they make it to the next farm, they find something far worse waits for them.
The Cottage is a British black comedy, the second film for Paul Andrew Williams who made a promising debut with London to Brighton (2006) and since went onto another horror film with Cherry Tree Lane (2010) and the non-genre likes of Song for Marion (2012) and The Eichmann Show (2015). The Cottage was modestly budgeted and sold on the starring names of Andy Serkis in one of his few non-motion capture performances and former League of Gentlemen member Reece Shearsmith (as well as Jennifer Ellison, a favourite of British lads magazines like Maxim and Stuff). For genre fans, there is also Doug Bradley, none other than Pinhead of Hellraiser (1987) fame, in a rare non-makeup-performance as the lead villager who confronts Andy Serkis outside a phone booth.
The Cottage hits in with a darkly pleasurable bite. The central characters of the two brothers and Jennifer Ellison as the aggressively mouthy hostage are well drawn. Paul Andrew Williams gets a good deal of amusement out of everything possible going wrong during the course of the kidnap. One is reminded of Danny Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (1997) or maybe a Coen Brothers’ film, especially something like The Ladykillers (2004), having been populated with characters that might have strayed in from a Guy Ritchie East End crime drama.
Paul Andrew Williams sets the first two acts up well. Indeed, there is the point where I was wondering if I really am going to have to review The Cottage as a genre film as I anticipated based on advance word. However, after you had been led to think you had been watching one type of film – a black caper comedy – the third act then does a Kill List (2011) and takes a left field dogleg off into WTF horror territory. I was intrigued to see where this was going but ended up being disappointed as the only thing that Paul Andrew Williams seems to have up his sleeve is a variant on the Backwoods Brutality film. We have seen several worthy British variants on this in recent years with the likes of Broken (2006), Severance (2006), Wilderness (2006), Eden Lake (2008) and In Fear (2013). However, Williams only serves up a rehash of the basics and does nothing interesting with them. It feels like a letdown – the whiplash black caper gone wrong comedy that suddenly dissolves into no more than having people pursued by a monosyllabic Leatherface knockoff. Moreover, as they are chased about, Williams plays these scenes for broad farce that frequently seems little more than one step above Keystone Kops routines.