Studio: Sony Pictures
Film Length: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Languages: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Cast: Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith, Jennifer Ellison, Steven O'Donnell
I have always derived a perverse pleasure in watching horror movies, specifically in the way that ordinary people never seem to do the right things to ensure their own survival. Suffice to say I was diabolically rubbing my hands together in preparation for this review, most notably because the film itself is billed as a horror / dark comedy. The movie begins with brothers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith) driving alone down a dark road at night, then arriving at a remote cottage in the country. At first it's unclear what their intentions are, but very quickly the film reveals that they are transporting a prisoner. David and Peter's hostage is Tracey (Jennifer Ellison), the daughter of a wealthy strip club owner.
From the outset, it's clear that David and Peter are not world class criminals. Peter, in fact, isn't a criminal at all but is just helping his brother get Tracey's ransom so he can buy out David's half of the house their mother willed them. David isn't a criminal per se either but is certainly more comfortable with his underhanded activities than Peter is. Their plan appears to be going well with the exception of the fact that Tracey isn't exactly a damsel in destress. She puts up a fight whenever possible and even manages to break Peter's nose with both her hands literally tied behind her back.
The scheme begins to unravel when Andrew (Steven O'Donnell) arrives with the ransom money from Tracey's father. The bag of money turns out to be filled with tissues and David realizes that they are being set up. He goes into the villiage to make a phone call regarding the ransom and when he returns to the cottage he finds Andrew unconscious and Tracey and Peter missing. When Daniel comes to, he tells David what happened and they set off into the woods in search of Peter and Tracey. All the while they are being hunted by a psychotic farmer who brutally murders everybody he crosses paths with.
"The Cottage" takes place entirely at night, so there isn't really much to look at. The standard resolution DVD does have very good sharpness and the filmmakers did a good job of using shadow and light effectively. Even though the movie did not have a large budget, the cinematography was surprisingly good. Unlike most horror films, "The Cottage" isn't a continual exploitation of the cliched music-crescendo-until-something-quickly-appears-on-screen philosphy. Instead, the viewer is usually shown everything at first glance before it becomes relevant. For example, there's a scene where David is opening doors in the farmers house and comes accross a room with a dismembered hand hanging from the ceiling. The hand is always shown in the scene, but isn't truly revealed until David's point of view turns to it and the camera focuses in accordingly.
The vast majority of "The Cottage" is comprised of dialogue between the main characters. The center channel does a commendable job relaying this information clearly. It goes without saying, of course, that the standard audio jolts and scares are handled with aplomb by the 5.1 soundtrack. During the outdoor scenes (particularly in the woods) the surround speakers do a great job of creating space and solitude. There's no mistaking that this location is completely isolated, which helps create that sense of dread.
Along with the movie itself, "The Cottage" does come with a few special features but they are, unfortunately, sparse. The viewer can choose from either deleted scenes, outtakes, or a storyboard gallery. The deleted scenes are interesting for the most part, but there's no mistaking that none of them would have changed the tone of the movie and certainly were better off as deleted. The outtakes were humorous, but not to the quality where it would warrant multiple viewings. Finally, the storyboards are informative but don't really serve much of a purpose other than illustrating the filmmaker's direction and intent.
On the whole, I enjoyed "The Cottage" though it does misfire a bit on the execution. The film spends a little too much time focusing on the bungled crime being committed, and when it does finally switch into horror mode the transition is a little jarring. Sadly, what the viewer is left with is a crime plot that takes up two thirds of the movie that ultimately gets forgotten, and a horror film that barely bothers to explain anything about the farmer other than that he kills people. I've always been a fan of dry British humor, so the conversations between David, Peter, and Daniel during the first half of the film are quite humorous, but unfortunately it's not enough to make up for the shortcomings overall. I give "The Cottage" a 5.5 out of 10.