The Cottage (2008)

Starring: Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith, Jennifer Ellison, Dave Legeno, Steve O'Donnell

Directed by: Paul Andrew Williams

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

'We're in a creepy farmhouse in the middle of f*cking nowhere – what do you think is underneath the trapdoor?' shrieks loud-mouthed kidnap victim Tracy (Jennifer Ellison) as she heaves the hidden entrance open.


Nothing?! Now this is why I'm glad I've seen so many horror movies, because I would know better. Only stupid people who've never seen a horror movie would ignore the badly spelled warning signs and walk into the eerie, deserted farmhouse in the dead of night, see the photo montages of scared looking people with their eyes cut out and not realise something's very wrong.

What's behind the trapdoor? How about a huge, deranged, deformed, psychopathic cannibal farmer with no face? Well, doh!

But nevertheless, there's something rather charming about the gleeful naivety with which director Paul Andrew Williams attacks the rustic gothic genre. From its opening sequence, overladen with a cheery Benny Hill style soundtrack, to its blood-soaked, unexpected denouement, it mixes the slapstick humour and broad stereotypes of an Ealing comedy with the careful characterisation of a black farce and the body count of a slasher flick – The Lady Killers get Naked for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Reece Shearsmith, Jennifer Ellison and Andy Serkis in Brit horror flick The Cottage

At its heart are bickering brothers David and Peter, played splendidly by Andy Serkis (for once not disguised behind CGI) and The League of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith. David is a mockney hardman who devises a plot to kidnap his boss's daughter and hold her to ransom; Peter is the henpecked husband who agrees to help him out, but soon finds himself out of his depth – especially when the so-called victim turns out to be a foul-mouthed Liverpudlian hoyden who could eat him for breakfast and still have room for three shredded wheat.

The kidnap is a disaster from the start – but a pair of inefficient Chinese hitmen on their trail proves to be the least of the brothers' worries when they stray onto The Farm (which begs the question why this film is called The Cottage). And, well, we all know what happens to arrogant city types when they think they can take on the country…

But David and Peter aren't your usual horror movie monster fodder. Serkis and Shearsmith make a great double act, the former's basso profundo gangster intensity perfectly counterbalanced by the spot-on comic timing and pathos of the latter, and both characters are painted with a depth and perception you don't often find in a slasher. Their fractious, love/hate relationship is so beautifully presented that, by the time the gorefest commences, you do actually care what happens to them – blimey!

This aside, The Cottage is a fairly run of the mill movie, albeit one with an above average (if unnecessarily profanity-laden) script. It's funny and smart, but not as funny as Shaun of the Dead or as smart as Severance, and it's not even remotely scary, although what it lacks in suspense, it certainly makes up for in blood and guts. But all the same, I liked it. I liked the way it cheerfully refused to play by the rules of horror (since when do you reveal the ravaged leatherface of your monster in his first appearance?); I liked the way it made me care about its central characters before hacking them down with merry abandon and I liked the fact that, all in all, it's extremely entertaining.

My verdict, then? The Cottage a fun place to visit – but I wouldn't want to live there…

  • Share on Tumblr