Oh the British, why are you so good at combining graphic gore with subtle comedy?
Much like the under-appreciated Severance, The Cottage is essentially a Friday the 13th film crossed with a black comedy, in this case something like Fargo or Ruthless People, in that you have a kidnapping gone wrong due to inept ‘criminals’, a kidnap victim who seems to have the upper hand, complications and double crosses, etc. But then a Victor Crowley-esque mutant killer comes along and everything goes to hell.
It’s not as laugh out loud funny as Severance, but it’s more consistently humorous. One thing about Severance that always kind of bugged me is that once the plane blows up (the film’s comedic highlight), they essentially drop the humor altogether. That’s not the case here, as there are giggles to be had right down to the final scene. And the film wastes no time getting to the laughs either, as the brothers begin humorously bickering in the film’s first scene (naturally, as this is a British movie, they bicker over tea).
Of course, the humor wouldn’t work at all without a capable cast, and thankfully director Paul Steven Williams has assembled one. Andy Serkis is great as David, the only intelligent criminal of the three, and has most of the film’s best lines. I was surprised at how good he was, since I only knew him as a guy who stood in for CGI characters (Gollum in LOTR, Kong in King Kong). Hopefully he will be taking on more actual roles. Reece Shearsmith as David’s brother Peter is also good, playing a nebbish who inadvertently causes most of their problems. Rounding out the trio is Steven O’Donnell as Andrew, stepbrother of the kidnap victim, who is so inept he makes Peter look criminally savvy. The only minor flaw is Doug Bradley, in a distracting cameo as one of a few townsfolk who show up long enough for you to say “what the hell was the point of that scene” (their one scene comes and goes out of nowhere, isn’t relevant to the plot, and is never even mentioned again).
As for the gore, it’s top notch. Not all of the gags are original (a decapitation via shovel, again), but they are executed flawlessly, and none of the effects look fake. It’s also occasionally pretty suspenseful; the film has the best “guy stupidly puts his head to the door when he knows the killer is on the other side” scene in ages, as Williams has the timing for such a clichéd sequence down perfectly, resulting in not only a jolt but a laugh as well once punchline to the bit is delivered. It should be noted that the killer doesn’t make his official appearance until the end of the 2nd act, and those seeking a nonstop gorefest will be disappointed. Structurally speaking, it’s more like Hatchet than a F13 movie.
My only other minor complaint is that the Danny Elfman-esque score (it sounds exactly like Beetlejuice at times) was overbearing at times, and not always ‘right’ for the scene. Maybe if played softer it would work, but since it’s drowning out the scene audio at times, it becomes doubly annoying.
The DVD comes with deleted scenes and outtakes. The outtakes are typical (i.e. not very funny, though it’s somewhat amusing to see how jovial Serkis is out of character), but the deleted scenes are interesting for the most part. In addition to a deleted character (wisely excised, as it spoils the surprise of the killer, much like I and the box art have done), there is also a moment where David is actually nice to Andrew, something that never occurs in the final cut. I would have liked a commentary, but alas (the deleted scenes have some explanation of their removal via onscreen text). Luckily, the movie was enjoyable enough on its own. Definitely recommended for fans of dry humor, and also fans of giant mutant killer dudes tearing fat guys’ spines out.
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