The Cottage
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Paul Andrew Williams
with Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith, Jennifer Ellison, Steve O'Donnell, Jonathan Chan-Pensley, Logan Wong, Dave Legeno, Simon Schatzberger, Doug Bradley, Johnny Harris, Katy Murphy, Georgia Groome
release UK 14.Mar.08
08/UK Pathe 1h31
The Cottage
Bloody hell: Shearsmith, Ellison and Serkis
The Cottage After his remarkable debut London to Brighton, Williams takes a sharp left turn with this extremely violent, blackly comical thriller. It's completely unhinged, and also rather clever.

When brothers David and Peter (Serkis and Shearsmith) arrive in an isolated cottage, they think they're on top of a freaky situation. They've just kidnapped Tracey (Ellison), the feisty daughter of David's gangland boss, and they hope to solve their personal problems with the modest ransom. Then Tracey's stepbrother Andrew (O'Donnell) arrives. He's in on the scam, but has been followed by his father's most ruthless goons (Chan-Pensley and Wong). But for the increasingly annoyed David, the ill-prepared worrywart Peter and the moronic Andrew, the night has only just begun.

Williams' inventive concept is to create a scenario in which each scene is the worst thing that could possibly happen to these characters, subverting their (and our) expectations and sending them in new, more horrific directions. Each new wrinkle is faced by David and Peter with a hilariously crazed explosion of anger and fear, respectively, as they head off into the night. The dialog is razor sharp and very funny, combined with the outrageous gore and constant visual shocks. We don't know whether to laugh or cover our eyes, so we do both.

Serkis and Shearsmith are terrific at the centre. Both are fully identifiable: David's tightly wound ball of rage at the incompetence around him and Peter's nervous terror at being so far from his comfort zone. And both Ellison and O'Donnell create hysterically funny characters circling around them; they're beyond obnoxious, in very different ways. Besides adding colourful edges to the story, they also exist simply to wind up David and Peter.

Along the way, Williams continually reminds us that we're watching a comedy, even as he cranks up the suspense and grisliness. The screwball music and Laurel & Hardy premise make everything slightly ridiculous, as do the farcical situations and charged back-stories. And it's so fast-based and busy, as the chaos escalates exponentially every few minutes, that we're carried along breathlessly right to the end of what Peter calls, with typical understatement, "the worst night of my life".

cert 18 themes, language, very strong violence 28.Feb.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall