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Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
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Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Lisbon
Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

November 12, 2008
RATING: 8/10
There have been many nerdy internet rumblings of late about director Paul Andrew Williams, foremost being the announcement that he's been hired to direct 28 Months Later, the second follow-up (after 28 Weeks Later) to the international zombie hit, 28 Days Later. For horror geeks this pairing of film and director will serve as welcome news, as Williams' unique ability to build and sustain tension seems well suited to the franchise. Some years back Williams directed a small flick called London To Brighton, a gripping tale of a prostitute and a young girl on the run from the mob which made the most of its minimal budget and top notch performances by a cast of unknown actors, and resonated with audiences and critics alike. Although that film doesn't fit snugly into the traditional Horror Film category several scenes, including an incredibly tense conversation in the back of a Range Rover, are truly horrific. If nothing else, London To Brighton was certainly an amazing initial effort by a promising young director.



One of the most glorious elements of the recent crop of horror films has been the near cessation of corny slasher clichés. Gone are the scores of young, 2-D, over-sexed, under-brained teenagers shuffling like lemmings into the business ends of so many power tools wielded by supernaturally unstoppable killers. In many recent horror films viewers instead find characters they care about fighting quite rationally against some truly frightening madmen and monsters. Unfortunately for American audiences, most of these great horror films are coming from outside of the country. Currently the most horrendously graphic and truly disturbing cinema is coming out of France. Recent French offerings like Frontiers (with it's beyond-grisly take on the immigration problems plaguing French society) or Martyrs (with its genre-bending and stomach-turning tale of torture) push the revulsion envelope to the breaking point. Films coming out of England are generally less visually sickening but are still capable of taking on interesting twists; films like Severance, Dead Man's Shoes and The Descent serve up some of the most visceral, and yet entertaining, horror experiences in recent memory. Paul Andrew Williams' follow-up to London To Brighton, titled The Cottage, fits in quite nicely with the aforementioned UK horror oeuvre while incorporating other diverse influences like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alfred Hitchcock, and even The Keystone Cops.



The basic plot of The Cottage is as follows: three low-rent thugs kidnap a mob boss' daughter, then retreat to the countryside to await a ransom payoff only to find that their chosen locale is also inhabited by a disfigured, homicidal farmer who enjoys hacking to bits anyone unwise enough to trespass onto his land. Needless to say, bloodshed ensues. What makes The Cottage such a great horror experience though is the characters involved in its ridiculous scenario. Each of the kidnappers is a loser of epic proportions - ranging from a career criminal (well portrayed by Golem himself, Andy Serkis) to a complete pushover to an incestuous slob. The film's most striking character is the kidnapped daughter, played by Jennifer Ellison, a gorgeous, frightening, violent bitch of a woman who turns the tide on her kidnappers within minutes of waking up in their midst. As a director Williams lets the characters develop and takes a cue from Speilberg by waiting an outrageous amount of time before revealing the shark or, in this case, The Farmer. The buildup works; lulled into the rhythms of a crime drama, when The Farmer finally impales his way into The Cottage the tension is palpable. The remaining span of the film has the crooks and their captive attempting to escape from The Farmer with varying degrees of success.

Another truly unique feature of The Cottage is the pairing of semi-slapstick bungling with ultraviolence. For example, in one scene a fat man steps on a rake and gets whacked in the face by the handle - a corny comedy cliché. Then we see that same fat man brutally take the rake in the back - a corny slasher cliché. Odd as it may sound, combining these common and disparate elements only works to make the film more unique and appealing. In fact, the entire film feels like a blatant series of clichés and archetypes - bungling crooks wearing all black, the buxom heroine, the bloodthirsty homicidal hick. Williams proudly shows off each of these cinematic devices and proceeds to twist and turn each overdone element into something fresh.



That insatiable quest for freshness, however, is occasionally to Williams' detriment. Most noticeably, the director's desire to be original and usurp convention fails in regard to Jennifer Ellison's character, the film's only female and by far the most dynamic and interesting in The Cottage. Ellison is gorgeous and audiences are prone to immediately discount her character as the "dumb blonde" who in any 1980s slasher feature would bungle or screw her way into a violent death at the hands of the killer. In The Cottage however Ellison is a sharp-minded, sewer-tongued survivalist who immediately begins to undermine her captors' authority, bonds and collective will. She so invigorates the film that her demise comes too quickly and, while the method of dispatch is fitting, her vicious, vivacious presence is immediately missed.

All gripes aside, The Cottage is quite an entertaining piece of cinema. Paul Andrew Williams only leaves his viewers wanting more and those who sit through the credits will be treated to a brief scene that leaves open an option for a sequel. The violence is cringe inducing at times, but overall the film's comedic elements add some crucial levity to this tale of dumb criminals, already in way over their heads, wading into a bloodbath.

TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1DIFtBcozI

SEE ALSO: www.thecottagemovie.co.uk
SEE ALSO: www.pathe.co.uk

--
Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LAS’s editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other articles by Jon Burke.

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