The recipe for a great horror-comedy is a difficult one to get right, it's all too easy to skimp on the witty one-liners or over-do on the dismembered body parts and the whole thing turns into Jeepers Creepers soufflé. The Cottage comes laced with a generous helping of all of the necessary ingredients, but what emerges from writer/ director Paul Andrew Williams' oven is something of a disappointment. Its fun in a gentile, understated sort of way and the horror is suitably ghastly; it's just not quite sharp enough on either front to be memorable.
Things kick off with an entertaining exchange of domestic unpleasantries between brothers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith) as they arrive at a secluded cottage in the dead of night. The central characters are set-up nicely with Shearsmith as the twitchy mummy's boy and Serkis as the mockney rebel.
It transpires that the feuding siblings have set their differences aside to embark upon a moneymaking scheme, namely to kidnap Tracey (Jennifer Ellison) and hold her gangland-boss father to ransom. It doesn't take long for things to begin to go awry and helped along by the intervention of Tracey's lumbering oaf of a step-brother (Steven O'Donnell) the kidnapping is soon well-and-truly bungled. Via a (frankly rather drawn out) chain of unfortunate events the switch marked `horror' is finally flicked and the quartet find themselves facing extinction at the hands of a maniacal farmer.
There are some winning moments in The Cottage, Shearsmith and Ellison make for an amusing double-act (Ellison really doesn't have to act as the gobby, irritating captive) and O'Donnell's natural buffoonery raises the odd chuckle. When the film finally shifts gear and the claret starts to fly the change of pace is a welcome one and for a few moments it looks like a blockbuster finish is on the cards. Overall though it fails to either tickle the funny bone or chill the spine consistently enough to make for compelling viewing. There are plenty of smartly wry moments but the humour is somewhat flat and despite spirited delivery from all involved the laughs are few and far between. You can't help but long for Shearsmith to pull a League of Gents-esque quip out of the bag, but it never comes.
Unquestionable the latter stages of the film are action-packed, with so many dismembered body parts that it must have been a good year for the latex factory, but where's the tension? Where are the moments that leave you checking under the bed when you get home? It feels as if Williams is over-eager to launch into the next instalment of slapstick-gore when perhaps some respite would serve better to build a sense of apprehension.
Plenty of people will enjoy The Cottage, it doesn't really do anything wrong, it just could have been considerably better. For many though it's likely to strike an odd balance. Those who enjoy the easy, soft-edged humour will find the gore unnecessary and those in search of horror could well be dozing off by the time it arrives. What's for dinner? Its sponge cake for starters and liver for desert.
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