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The Cottage
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Nightclub bouncer David (Serkis) ropes in his weedy brother Peter (Shearsmith) to kidnap his boss’s daughter Tracey (Ellison) for the ransom money.
They hide out in a remote woodland cottage, while they wait for the gangster’s step-son to turn up with the cash.
Peter is uncomfortable having an unconscious woman in the boot of his car, not least when his wife is expecting him home for dinner. He doesn’t make a very good kidnapper, accidentally using his brother’s name and showing his face…he clearly never made it past the introduction of “Kidnapping for Dummies” because that’s surely page one stuff.
As if the incompetent pair aren’t having enough trouble, when the step-son turns up, Tracey breaks free, and before long, the four find themselves on a deserted farm – whose resident doesn’t seem to take too kindly to visitors.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

After his award-winning gritty drama London To Brighton, Paul Andrew Williams is trying something completely different, but he doesn’t seem to be quite sure WHAT he’s trying.
What begins as a familiar odd-couple, kidnapping-gone-wrong black comedy turns into the Sussex Chainsaw Massacre – the film’s tag-line “Trespassers will be … mutilated” gives you a flavour of the final half hour.
It’s basically two films, stitched together with a piece of clunky dialogue, halfway through a scene in the farmhouse kitchen.
For the first hour, we’re watching the kidnap caper, with two misfit brothers (whose accents betray the fact that they’re clearly from different parts of the country), struggling to collect the ransom for their Liverpudlian captive from her Cockney Dad. The relationships, though contrived, aren’t without humour and you will catch yourself laughing out aloud – largely through gross-out humour, rather than anything particularly clever.
However gallant their attempts to solicit empathy from the audience, we don’t find out enough about the main characters to care about whether they pull off their plot – and when things don’t go to plan, you don’t really like them enough to feel for them, which is particularly problematic for “part two.”
For the final half hour, we get a rip-off of any number of films where the deranged monster picks off his doomed victims one by one – helpfully (for the director) doing such things as letting them run away so that the chase will be more exciting (for the viewer, that is) and leaving out a scrap-book that enables his victims (and the audience) to find out just why he is the way he is, poor love.
You will grimace. You will yelp in sympathy with the characters as you see body-parts being sliced this way and that – but it’s childish film-making. All a comedian has to do for a laugh is stand at the microphone and swear. All a film-maker has to do to make you jump is play a loud sound-effect when you least expect it. It’s not big. It’s not clever. But it works.
Pasting two very different films together, with little continuity or purpose, on the other hand, doesn’t.
Williams’ debut feature saw him honoured with awards and nominations galore – his second is another story – or rather, two other stories – both that we’ve seen done better many times before and neither that will live in the memory any longer than the characters who were foolish – or unlucky – enough to trespass at this farm.

opens nationwide 14th March 2008

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