Low-level criminal David (Serkis) convinces his wet-fish brother Peter (Shearsmith) to help him kidnap the feisty daughter of a gang boss (Ellison). When they arrive at their remote countryside hideout, however, they encounter a lumpy-headed psycho killer
It’s understandable that, after charting the lives of gangsters and child prostitutes in his outstanding debut, London To Brighton, Paul Andrew Williams might want a break from moody grit. Few would have guessed that his next project would be a slapstick horror featuring Jennifer Ellison and a maniac with an axe.
In fact, Williams wrote The Cottage before coming up with London To Brighton, making his true aspirations unclear: does he dream of being the next Mike Leigh? Or the next Eli Roth? So far it would seem his talents lie more in street-level drama than black comedy. When the mayhem-filled third act kicks in, The Cottage hits its stride; until then, it uneasily straddles the line between horror and comedy without hitting many sweet spots on either side.
The Emmerdale-meets-From-Dusk-Till-Dawn plot, in which two brothers bring the gangster’s daughter they’ve kidnapped to a sleepy village that’s also the stalking ground of a monster, has more talk than action. So it’s good that Williams has two stalwart character actors for his leads: Andy ‘Gollum’ Serkis and The League Of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith. The pair - Serkis as the hard man and Shearsmith the wimp - seize their roles with gusto. Much more surprising is Ellison as the mouthy moll - punching, nutting and spitting “cunt” at anyone within range, she turns the character into a highly entertaining Scouse wildcat.
It’s a promising three-hander, soon marred by an unnecessary pair of Korean characters who turn up to bump off our heroes. It’s unclear what their function is, since they fail to provide much in the way of suspense. The same can be said of the mid-section, as attempts to stir up the same sense of foreboding as the start of An American Werewolf In London - creepy locals, ominous signposts, etc - fall flat.
Still, once the mutant baddie is finally unveiled, Williams rediscovers his mojo. The final stretch is a real crowd-pleaser, with plenty of inventive shots, an eye-watering incident with a spade and Shearsmith playing scream queen. It all makes you wish The Cottage had started dishing out the scares a lot earlier.
Frightfest regulars and hungry gorehounds will get a kick out of this, but those who hailed Williams as a Brit-indie visionary after London To Brighton might be left scratching their heads.