Brothers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith) arrive at a cottage in the middle of the English countryside and go inside, settling down for the night with a mug of tea each. But there's the problem of what they have in the boot of the car to contend with, and they will have to bring her in eventually. Their new acquisition is Tracey (Jennifer Ellison), daughter of a rich gangster of David's acquaintance who they have kidnapped and bound with a view to securing a king's ransom in return for her safety. But these kinds of plans never go too smoothly...
The Cottage was writer and director Paul Andrew Williams' unlikely follow up to his gritty drama London to Brighton, a complete change of pace for something that starts out as a bungling criminals comedy and transforms for its last act into a rural horror which did not spare the ketchup. It had the advantage of brevity, being a punchy little effort which knew its own mind, which was to create a sort of British Three Stooges for the new millennium, although most of the violence is not committed by the trio of loser kidnappers, but is visited upon them.
Yes, a trio, because heading David and Peter's way is Andrew (Stephen O'Donnell), the dimwitted stepbrother of Tracey, with what they hope is the ransom money. Sadly for them, Andrew didn't think to check the contents of the bag he was given which it emerges is filled not with readies but tissue paper. As if that were not bad enough, Tracey is a foul-mouthed harpy who can easily outwit her captors who in rather too contrived scenes manage to sabotage their scheming with redundant regularity: even soft-spoken, slow-burning David, supposedly the brains of the outfit, messes up.
If our sympathies are with anyone, it is with him and his simple dreams of buying a yacht to sail away in. It's not as if the people they are trying to exact money from are especially decent, Tracey is proof of that, but you are aware from the start that nothing here is going to work out, even if there hadn't been a Texas Chain Saw Massacre style maniac roaming around outside. There are actually two cottages in the film, one where we start and another where we end, so who knows which the title refers to. More important than that, however, is getting the group of characters from one to the other.
Peter is supposed to be the main source of the humour, with his simpering antics including being afraid of moths, so with crushing inevitability he ends up in a room full of them and his phobia causes Tracey to get away. The gags are not as wittily twisted as Shearsmith's League of Gentlemen material, leaving this more of a bloody slapstick endeavour with bits and pieces geting hacked off the characters the further the story progresses. There's a nice cameo from Hellraiser's Doug Bradley as a cliché "we don't like strangers round these 'ere parts" local, and occasionally a chuckle arises from how far over the top Williams is willing to take his cast, but there's a despairing level of futility about the plot and how it ends up that leaves you curiously unsatisfied. Perfectly watchable (and stick with the end credits), but it rings hollow. Music by Laura Rossi.