Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

British director Paul Andrew William’s first feature film, ‘London to Brighton’ was one of the surprise movies I had a chance to see last year as it was a very taut, tightly constructed, sparse crime thriller that told its story in a cool way. Apparently having no desire to be wedged into a genre and thus limiting his career options, Mr. Williams with his latest film ‘The Cottage’ has decided to temporarily turn into Edgar Wright and deliver to us a British horror comedy. Personally, despite the fact that ‘The Cottage’ is technically superior in every conceivable way than ‘London to Brighton’, Mr. Williams first movie left me with a feeling that I had just seen something new and inventive, where ‘The Cottage’, though marginally entertaining, left me with a feeling that this is something that I had seen many times before.

Tough guy David (Andy Serkis) and his milquetoast brother Peter (Reece Shearsmith) are obviously up to no good. The two men drive up to a remote cabin with Steven acting incredibly skittish as per usual and his brother doing his best not to choke him death while trying to keep him calm. Once the two men put on their ski masks and head back out to their car and grab the over developed blonde in the t-shirt and sweatpants a size or two too small, we learn that these two men have just kidnapped somebody.

Now this young woman they have kidnapped, Tracy (Jennifer Ellison), is apparently the cherished step daughter to some London mob type and the two men simply want a lousy 150 pounds to have her returned safely. Tracey though is one tough foul mouthed bird who manages break Steven’s nose even while bound and gagged and makes it a point to utter every dirty word she can think of for the brief moments that the gentlemen remove the gag from her face. Also in on the kidnapping is Tracey’s near brain dead step brother Andrew (Steven O’Donnel) who has the task of retrieving the booty, but it becomes pretty clear that tough guy David by saddling himself with the henpecked Peter and the town idiot Andrew sure doesn’t know how to properly choose his partners in crime.

Soon this mobster knows where our ‘heroes’ are and dispatches some Asian hitmen to do away with them, but these killers are the least of these guys problems as there is apparently another force at work nearby in the stark, cold, dark woods surrounding this cottage. About the time the strange villagers mill around David and tell him that he best leave town, that would have been my cue, but alas David has a boat to buy. A little bit later on David won’t give much of a damn about his boat any more, nor will any of the characters really care about their various issues before too long as their main focus will be on trying to stay alive. Good luck with that.

One of the more interesting things that resulted from me watching ‘The Cottage’ is that I stumbled upon a passionate internet discussion centering around actress Jennifer Ellison with the topic being whether or not her voluminous breasts are real or fake. Unfortunately I don’t have enough information to weigh in on that discussion, but those suckers are large, firm and high. But Jennifer Ellison’s breast aside, ‘The Cottage’ was two decidedly different films with the first half of Paul Andrew Williams movie being a rather amusing bumbling caper flick and the second half of the film turning into a standard run-of-the mill slasher flick. These two disparate elements aren’t even integrated within each other since the cat doing the slashing doesn’t even make an appearance until the film is well over half over, and by the time this loon shows up, the film has pretty much stopped being funny and our characters have stopped caring about crime. This could be one of the reasons that ‘The Cottage’ felt a bit disjointed in its narrative since the two stories didn’t successfully merge into one.

The good thing though is that the bumbling crime comedy was pretty funny. Andy Serkis does tough guy about as good as anybody and Steven O’Donnel and Reece Shearsmith gave us plenty to laugh about with their spot on performances of gross ineptitude. I don’t know if it was just me, but it sure sounded like those Asian hitmen were speaking with Jamaican accents. Either it was by design or those actors are actually British Nationals and have no earthly idea how to speak in a broken Asian dialect. Jennifer Ellison and her controversial breasts also added to the overall lunacy of the first half of the film, plus the movie was paced well and lit to scary perfection, though it wasn’t very scary. Again by the time the whole horror element kicked in it was certainly nothing we haven’t seen before and done better before and the movie might have been better served if it were to stay the course of the crime comedy. Trouble with that is that this would have totally removed the final scene in cellar basement, which while completely predictable, was still none the less classic. You know a scene is good when you can see it coming a mile away and its still manages to be terribly effective.

Paul Andrew Williams is a film director who from my vantage point has a fairly secure future based on his first two films. As he continues to make more films it is my hope that his visions become a little more focused, as his first film was, and he continues to build on his technical acumen, just as he has with ‘The Cottage’. Not a bad film by any means, but still a bit of a jumbled inconsistent one.

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