KILLER FARMER HEAD CRUSHER
, 02 Dec 2013
This is perhaps a little old by Britpic standards, which is ironic as its pretty much precisely the film that most independent British film-makers seem to be trying to make. In brief, an attempted kidnap goes wrong and theres a mutilated murderous farmer on the loose. Before continuing, I would quibble with the pertinence of the title, as you can argue that the cottage is forgotten about halfway through (or you could argue that the action switches cottages halfway through, so a more accurate title might in fact be THE COTTAGES). But Im just being pedantic for the sake of it After all, calling it something more relevant like THE HEAD-COLLECTING KILLER FARMER would give the game away. So Andy Serkis stars as a criminal henchman whos fed up with the criminal henchman lifestyle and has dreamt up a frankly idiotic bog-standard kidnap-and-ransom plan. He enlists the help of both his henpecked brother (Reece Shearsmith, screaming and whimpering to Olympic standard) and the dim stepbrother of his victim (Steven ODonnell lumbering lugubriously like a latter-day Bernard Bresslaw). These turn out to be bad personnel decisions. Even worse though are his targets. As the post credits scene shows, Serkis has chosen the wrong man to cross. He has also chosen the wrong woman to kidnap, namely Jennifer Ellison (giving a performance which seems to have ended her acting career). And Serkis has chosen the worst possible location to hide in (the titular abode). This is a film of two stories. On the one hand we have the exploits of some incompetent kidnappers as they fail to combat the efforts of their victim and her prospective rescuers. On the other hand we have a marauding maniac slicing people up and separating their heads and spinal cords from the rest of their bodies. Needless to say that when the two meet, its murder. Its a very silly film, full of people doing things they only do in movies, but, if viewed in an indulgent mood, it works on its own terms. Serkis plays the gangs leader with an admirably straight face; you never believe hes a ruthless criminal mastermind, but thats because he isnt. Hes a dozy opportunist whos more of an idiot than he realises. Depending on your comedic taste, Shearsmith may be brilliant or dreadful. His acting is a lot more cartoony than the others in the film, but you always know where you are with his character: a put-upon, brow-beaten, moth-phobic coward, who is quite simply the worst kidnapper ever. As their victim Elliston is able to deal with her captors even with her hands tied behind her back. If ever a performance deserved the epithet feisty it is this one. How often have we heard actresses enthuse in interviews over their latest roles, always describing them as feisty without knowing the original meaning of the word? (It means like a small dog.) Elliston is hilarious as the berserk victim victim is completely the wrong word with a penchant for creative and pervasive swearing. (It does make you wonder what the Serkis character thought he was getting into but never mind). ODonnell, bless him, manages to get away with even the oldest jokes (look out for the balaclava moment) by playing it deadpan and bored. THE COTTAGE has a small cast of characters, with only Dave Legeno worth mentioning as the villain. Doug Bradley turns up for a cameo but I dont really understand why Bradley is rated in cult films (after all HELLRAISER was decades ago and not all that good) and hes not an unusually good actor. THE COTTAGE was written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, a film-maker whose name will never be known simply because its such a dull name. However, hes done CHERRY TREE LANE, SONG FOR MARION and LONDON TO BRIGHTON, so he seems to be pretty versatile. THE COTTAGE should just be outrageously stupid. Instead its something of a guilty pleasure. The acting (although always entertaining) isnt exactly truthful, and the story itself is slight and silly. But its also stupidly entertaining. THE COTTAGE succeeds as being one of those films which does what it wants to do; which seems to be to fuse a couple of genres together, sprinkle the plot with good jokes and sight-gags, and add just enough plot to keep it going from set-piece to set-piece. Does the film work? Not quite. It has a number of parallels with the even more bonkers BOTCHED which has an even more demented attitude to just chucking in anything. But on its own terms, its nicely realised bit of nonsense, if you like films which have moments of excessive gore, minimal logic, old jokes, genuine surprises, plot twists both obvious and clever, and dont mind having heads chucked at you.
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