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  • 18
  • Comedy, Crime
  • 2008
  • 91 mins

The Cottage

The Cottage


After travelling from London To Brighton, writer-director Paul Andrew Williams takes us further in-country with this genre-bending black comedy, in which two brothers learn painful lessons about the true nature of family dysfunction. Andy Serkis, R


"We're gonna go to hell for this."

This is the opening line of Paul Andrew Williams' The Cottage, but even as he utters it, mild-mannered, lepidophobic Peter (Sheersmith) has little inkling of the trouble that is in store for him and his rough-edged brother David (Serkis).

Sure, they have just snatched Tracey (Ellison) and brought her, bound and gagged, to an isolated cottage hideout until the ransom money turns up, but even in his wildest neurotic fantasies, Peter could never imagine the sheer amount of verbal and physical abuse he is going to endure from their recalcitrant abductee. He doesn't know that their inside man on the job, Tracey's idiot stepbrother Andrew (O'Donnell), has been tailed by two of her father's blade-wielding henchmen (Wong, Chan-Presley) who are just waiting for the right moment to perform some creative slice-and-dice on the bungling kidnappers.

Peter doesn't even realise that the countryside is positively teeming with those dreaded moths. He is, after all, a family man, not really cut out for this kind of work. Level-headed David has a better idea of how bad things can get - but as the two bickering brothers end up at a farm on the other side of the woods, even David doesn't see what's coming next.

The Cottage follows a pattern well-established by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), and reinforced by Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Alex Turner's Dead Birds (2004) and Stevan Mena's Malevolence (2004), that fugitive criminals who hole up in the country tend to get far more than they bargain for in terms of genre - so it comes as no real surprise when the heist-gone-wrong shenanigans that characterise the first half of The Cottage soon give way to something altogether more unhinged.

Sure enough, William's story twists and turns much like the darkened by-road seen in the film's opening sequence, veering from Coen caper to Hooperhorror - but the one thing that remains a unifying constant throughout, apart from the recurrent motif of family dysfunction, is the film's wicked streak of humour. For if the principal characters are put through absurd amounts of pain, viewers too will be laughing until their sides hurt.

Smart dialogue, excellent character acting, impressive prosthetic effects, and Laura Rossi's perfect Danny Elfman-esque score, all make their contribution to the pleasure of watching The Cottage, but in the end, it's Williams' deft handling and assured intermixing of different genre elements that are the film's real coup.

Here the essentially American modes of botched heist and backwoods barbarity are married both to each other and to a very British comic sensibility, so that no matter whether David, Peter and Andrew are facing fluttering moths, a potty-mouthed prisoner or things unimaginably worse, their daft incompetence and bumbling banality ensure that the film remains a hilariously sickening joy from start to finish.

The last line of The Cottage - "Oh, you must be joking" - might as well be directed at Williams himself, but it is the kind of joke that will leave everyone smiling.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jennifer Ellison, Dave Legeno, Jonathan Chan-Presley, Simon Schatzberger, Steven O'Donnell, Andy Serkis, Reece Sheersmith, Logan Wong, Doug Bradley
  • Director: Paul Andrew Williams
  • Screen Writer: Paul Andrew Williams
  • Producer: Martin Pope, Ken Marshall
  • Photographer: Christopher Ross
  • Composer: Laura Rossi

In a nutshell

When the kidnap caper meets the backwoods massacre, the results are painful, gory, and very, very funny. The Cottage fills the gap in the British film market left vacant by Shaun Of The Dead.

by Anton Bitel

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