I had heard a lot about this British horror, but coming on the back of a number of similar sounding British comedy type horrors I felt it might be a little too much like the others. Yet the names involved had always caught my eye, Andy Serkis, Jennifer Ellison and Steven O'Donnell.
So I finally managed to see it on DVD and was surprised at how enjoyable it was, and how much there was on the DVD offering.
The story is pretty straightforward, two men have kidnapped the step daughter of a wealthy, powerful, and very dangerous man. They take her to a cottage in the middle of nowhere in order to carry out their plans from somewhere safe and quiet. However the locals are none too friendly, and one in particular, a psychotic madman who seems to enjoy killing visitors to the area, and so the kidnapping plan begins to go slightly awry.
The Cottage is a good film that manages to mix horror and comedy really well without favouring one genre to the detriment of the other. The film has some great moments that parody the traditional horror clichés, and by embracing these rather than trying to avoid them, it gives something different and amusing at the same time. In fact these are some of the strongest moments of the film.
The story of The Cottage is well thought out and entertaining with some very cleverly crafted moments and set-ups that really do pay off well on screen. The story also provides some genuine surprises that go against what you might be expecting.
With strong twists and turns in the story, and good timing in the comedy and in the surprises, I myself was surprised by the script. There's much more to this story than you might expect on the face of it, or thinking of it as one of the British horror comedies that was coming out at the time.
What's more is that the characters are great to watch too, and again they manage to deviate from clichés in some surprising and entertaining ways. Such as the character of the step daughter played by Jennifer Ellison and her rather bold personality, or the great scene between Andy Serkis' character and the madman with the photographs, the character looks between them are superb.
The villain of the piece is very good and even through the make-up and without words builds a strong personality, and manages to give the leads a good run for their money. However Andy Serkis gives another of his trademark strong performances with Jennifer Ellison surprising me with her very strong character, she's not only good, but she does grab the screen by the throat on occasion.
Steven O'Donnell is good, although in a few scenes there's a sense that he's overacting his character. They are all made better by the great script that provides them with some strong dialogue and great moments.
The ending of the film has some of the best surprises and twists in store, and for some of the characters the ending begins quite early on, for others it comes at the last possible moment. However there's an after the credits ending which is disappointing and actually cheapens the previous ending. I'd recommend concentrating on the proper ending of the film.
The Cottage comes from the writer/director of London to Brighton, Paul Andrew Williams, who manages to prove something else with this film and shows that he's a rising British talent who is a strong writer as he is a director, and once again with The Cottage proves it.
The film is shot well, and the outside scenes in the darkness of the forest and farmyards are superbly lit. It does give the impression of a much bigger budgeted film.
Dolby Digital 5.1, Audio Description
I didn't listen to the audio descriptive soundtrack, although I do think that it would have provided for much laughter too, especially describing some of the more manic scenes. However the Dolby Digital 5.1 track was rather strong, particularly in the depths of the darkened forest where it was used rather atmospherically.
Writer/director's audio commentary, Deleted Scenes with writer/director's audio commentary, Outtakes, Making of featurette, behind the scenes photos, Jennifer Ellison's audition tapes, trailer, cast and crew write ups, Easter Egg
Writer/director's audio commentary
The commentary is informative and interesting, giving plenty of behind the scenes details, discussing the filming, the actors, as well as the story itself.
Deleted Scenes with writer/director's audio commentary
This extra is a little poor, it's pretty clear why the deleted scenes are deleted, and the commentary adds nothing and gives little information on them or the changes to the script and the story.
The outtakes contain a few very funny moments and are well worth a look.
Making of Featurette
This is a pretty good featurette with comments from the cast and writer/director and some behind the scenes moments.
Jennifer Ellison's Audition Tapes
This was perhaps the best extra on the DVD which gave a really surprising insight into Jennifer Ellison. For some reason I thought she might be very much like her character, but in real life she turns out to be a sweet lady apologising for her swearing in character!
My second favourite extra on the DVD was the Easter Egg - you'll find it if you look - which is supremely funny in its own right and replays the film with a few counters that the censorships boards might find interesting.
The Cottage is a great film that really does surprise. From the excellent scripting to the strong filming and lighting, and the strong characters and acting, the film entertains and gives a few shocks on the way. It's not only funny, but it's a damn good horror film too.
Then there's the DVD offering which manages to provide a lot of additional information about the film and the cast, as well as welcome outtakes and a nice Easter Egg. It's a strong DVD for a very good film.