David (Andy Serkis, KING KONG) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith, SHAUN OF THE DEAD; THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMAN'S APOCALYPSE) are brothers who kidnap a nightclub owner's stepdaughter, hoping he'll pay the £100,000 ransom they need to sort out their financial woes.

Peter doesn't feel good about lying to his wife and helping his gangland brother take hostage Tracey (Jennifer Ellison, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) to a remote country cottage. He goes along with the harebrained plan though, as he desperately wants to buy David's half of their late mother's house.

Upon getting Tracey out of their car boot and into the cottage, she awakens from her chloroform-induced slumber and reveals herself to be a foul-mouthed, aggressive handful, breaking Peter's nose by repeatedly headbutting it.

The club owner knows David, and so he gets Peter to ring him and demand the money. He instructs the owner to give the money to his son Andrew (Steve O'Donnell, A KNIGHT'S TALE) who is to travel alone to the cottage to make the swap.

Andrew is in on the kidnap plot though, and his dad soon realises this - and sends two Asian assassins to follow him. When Andrew arrives at the cottage, oblivious to the fact he was followed by two henchmen parked up outside waiting to strike, he hands the briefcase over to David. David opens it to find nothing but tissues. He's furious, and understandably concerned - he now knows that the club owner suspects Andrew is involved, and that their plot is in serious jeopardy.

With their mobile phones either drowned or out of battery, David decides to drive out to the nearest village and ring the club owner from a phone box to negotiate further. When he returns, Andrew is laid on his back, and Tracey and Peter have gone. David picks Andrew up and makes haste in setting about finding his brother.

In the woods, Tracey drags Peter along now as her hostage. But everything changes when they stumble across a remote farm …

THE COTTAGE begins with light, comedic music that lets you know instantly that nothing is to be taken that seriously. The opening scenes quickly establish David and Peter as bickering siblings, and allow for some minor chuckles while setting the stall for some later scenes (their disagreement over an age-old greenhouse incident; Peter's fear of moths).

Ellison elicits a fair few laughs as the brazen peroxide with an eye-pricking bust. Her characters gathers titters from being possibly the most potty-mouthed female ever to grace the screen (discounting of course the decidedly male Divine in PINK FLAMINGOS). It's all "fucking cunt" this, "fucking pussy" that - all spat out with particular derision towards the wet Peter.

Ellison and Shearsmith clearly have a whale of a time in their roles, and their enthusiasm translates well on the screen. Serkis is less convincing as the hard man, but comes into his own as the film shifts dramatically into horror territory during the final 30 minutes.

Indeed, speaking of which, it would be fair for many to scratch their heads up until the halfway point of this film, wondering why it was ever labelled as a 'comedy horror'. The first 50 minutes provide plenty of humour and even some minor gore, but the horror is conspicuously absent. All that changes when Dave Legeno (RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER) appears on screen, heavily made up in the guise that can blurrily be witnessed on the Dimension Extreme R1 DVD cover.

There are some decent prosthetic FX during the final third of the film, and a fair amount of blood to be enjoyed. It's all delivered with considerable gusto, taking the piss out of clichéd horror conventions (killers returning from the dead; characters creeping in dark rooms with only a Zippo lighter to guide their way) while having the good respect to throw in a few twists and remember that we do like a bit of tension with out gore.

While there is gore evident, I'm not convinced there's enough to merit an "18" rating - I strongly suspect the BBFC have given THE COTTAGE that rating on account of Ellison's liberal use of the word "cunt". It's a weird world we live in.

Tightly edited, genuinely funny on occasions, and sufficiently genre-savvy, THE COTTAGE is a solid effort from Paul Andrew Williams. Arguably, it's not as satisfying as his feature debut LONDON TO BRIGHTON, but it's fun nonetheless.

The film is presented uncensored in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's a very good transfer indeed with fine detail and clarity, plus well-balanced colours and contrast.

The English audio is available in both 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, both of which work extremely well. English Hard of Hearing subtitles are also at hand. Furthermore, the film can also be played with English audio description.

Quirky animated menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 16 chapters.

Extra features begin with an interesting commentary track from Williams. He speaks favourably of his cast, and offers a wealth of information regarding locations, editing and the subtle use of CGI here and there (to add blood dripping from wounds; to remove rain from outdoor scenes, etc). Although Williams tends to get lost in the action and forget to talk now and again, he generally holds it together enough to keep us listening.

A 15-minute Making Of featurette offers video diary-style on-location footage, intercut with cast and crew interviews.

14 minutes of deleted scenes follow with optional director's commentary. These are handy, as they shed more light on an excised character called Smoking Joe that Williams refers to in the feature commentary. These scenes are presented in timecoded full-frame format.

As are the outtakes, which provide 5 more minutes of mild titillation.

Cast and crew biographies follow, and a good theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 rounds off the official extras.

There's a couple of Easter Eggs to be found on the disc too. The first is a pretty uninspired collection of film stills, while the second is an amusing addition entitled "The Fuck-o-meter". This fast-forwards through the film, pausing each time a character swears - and keeps a tally of each swear word. The result is hilariously surprising.

While not all of the humour works, it's fair to say THE COTTAGE is the most well-balanced and enjoyable comedy horror since SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It doesn't always gel, but when it does it's tremendous fun. Worth investigating.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Pathé Distribution
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review