THE COTTAGE Directed by Paul Andrew Williams. Starring Reece Shearsmith, Andy Serkis, Jennifer Ellison, Dave Legeno, Katy Murphy 16 cert, gen release, 92 min
IMAGINE, for a moment, that, after directing Poor Cow, his feature debut, Ken Loach embarked on a Norman Wisdom comedy or a film about flesh-eating lizards starring Peter Cushing.
Well, okay, that is overstating the case a little. But Paul Andrew Williams’s fine London to Brighton was, despite its outbreaks of black humour, certainly an austere, grimly serious piece of work. The Cottage, by way of contrast, is a horror comedy with no grand ambitions beyond its honourable mission to amuse and appal. It doesn’t quite come off, but it’s good to see a young film-maker exercising all his creative muscles.
You certainly can’t fault the casting. Reece Shearsmith, late of The League of Gentlemen, and Andy Serkis, England’s swarthiest rogue, play two brothers with a misguided scheme to make a dishonest fortune. Before the film begins, they kidnap a powerful hoodlum’s daughter, dump her in the boot of her car and drive her to a remote cottage. When you hear that their captive is played by the Liverpudlian foghorn that goes by the name of Jennifer Ellison, you will understand that they are in for an uncomfortable time.
The opening sequences work well enough. Each of the three leads has a sure grasp of his or her broad character, and they all bicker and pout with commendable degrees of conviction. But the film does come off the rails somewhat when it wanders into horror territory.
Critics of macabre cinema do, perhaps, go on a little too much about the advisability of keeping the monster in the shadows. When, however, your psychopathic farmer looks like something out of I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, a degree of cinematographic discretion may indeed be advisable. The scenes in which the heroes flee the rubbery maniac are, sadly, neither tense enough to be properly unsettling nor funny enough to raise anything more than a tolerant titter.
Still, The Cottage is never less than fun, and it’s hard – nay, impossible – to dislike a film with the tag line “Get off his land!” You sure wouldn’t get that from Ken Loach.
Sheer terror: Reece Shearsmith