Broad comedy and splattery horror are a pretty tough combo to pull off, but if anyone can do it ... the British can. There's no denying that the British are masters of comedy, and they also have a lot of skill with the scary stuff ... most of the time. One need only take another look at a flick like Shaun of the Dead to see how rare and how satisfying a great "horror comedy combo" can be. Which brings us to The Cottage, an enjoyably but fairly schizophrenic genre experiment that does a fine job with the horror and comedy as separate components -- but, as is usually the case, the combination of the two proves to be a very difficult feat to pull off.
Similar in tone and delivery to Chistopher Smith's Severance, The Cottage tells the story of two astoundingly different brothers who (stupidly) decide to kidnap a crime boss' daughter and hold the buxom blonde for ransom, only to discover that their forest hideout is the home of a typically horrific and mutated murderer. In a fashion that may prove familiar to fans of Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn, The Cottage spends about 45 minutes as a dark-hued kidnapping comedy -- and then it quickly changes speed before evolving into a rather energetic horror-fest. The tonal shift creates a flick that doesn't always work well as a whole, but definitely succeeds on the backs of a few strong performances and a handful of amusingly over-the-top gore-splatters.
As the tough-talking ringleader with a soft streak, Andy Serkis is quite a bit of fun throughout. Freed from the shackles of CGI technology (he played Gollum AND King Kong, don't forget), Serkis cuts loose and delivers a fun performance that more than proves his chops as a character actor. Even when the flick rambles around a bit, Serkis saves the day with his exasperated, eye-rolling intensity. As the (much) wimpier brother, British comedian Reece Shearsmith provides a more-than-suitable foil for Serkis. (For a movie about kidnapping and killing, it's amusing to note that its best moments are those of simple dialog and chemistry. I sure wouldn't mind seeing Serkis and Shearmsith work as a team again.) The lovely Jennifer Ellison (she played Meg in Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera) is fanboy eye-candy, to be sure, but she also makes for one unexpectedly vulgar and difficult -- and therefore very amusing -- hostage.
Written and directed by UK up & comer Paul Williams (London to Brighton), The Cottage may suffer from a patently obvious case of cinematic schizophrenia, as if the filmmaker wasn't entirely sure which tone he'd be employing from one scene to the next. Still, the movie is still more than strangely amusing enough to warrant a rental from the hardcore horror fans. For all its (minor) pacing issues and and semi-jarring tonal shifts, the film simply feels like two mini-movies that have been smushed together, neither of which (the Goofy Gangster flick and the Forest Slasher movie) are all that unique. But thanks to some unexpectedly witty banter, three funny actors, and a finale that (eventually) exhibits some solid oomph, I have no problem offering a recommendation on this broad and goofy little import.
I mean, it's pretty unfair to expect every British horror-com to be as good as Shaun of the Dead, seeing as it's pretty much the Casablanca of the sub-genre.