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In its cryptic opening scene, THE COTTAGE shows the
potential to become a creepy, interesting suburban thriller. However, despite
moments of surprising effectiveness, THE COTTAGE is brought down by several
problems that often plague low-budget horror films, most prominently the
lackluster story developed out of its cool premise.
In THE COTTAGE (on DVD today from Entertainment One, and no
relation to the same-titled UK horror/comedy of a few years back), a tense
post-divorce couple (Kristen Dalton and Victor Browne) rent out their spare
cottage for extra cash, and under a sudden economic strain, they impulsively
select a quiet, seemingly normal novelist (David Arquette). Yet once the new
tenant settles in, the family experiences strange events, including the sudden
disappearances of those close to them. All the while, the newcomer evidently
has plans of his own, including frequent rendezvous with three excitable young
women whose purpose in the big picture is shrouded in mystery.
The film has plenty of potential, with an inspired premise,
several unpredictable twists and a serviceable lead performance by Arquette,
who puts his quiet, unassuming charm to villainous use in an
uncharacteristically dialed-down performance. Yet the film has serious issues,
the biggest of which is that director Chris Jaymes and scripter Nick Antosca
choos to focus on the least interesting aspects of its intriguing concept. The
family-drama portion of the movie is meant to elicit tension and emotional
motivation, yet serves only as running-time filler before the revelatory
conclusion. The dialogue often bounces between cliché and outright painful, and
aside from Arquette, most of the cast, including Dalton and Browne in the
generic, unfocused parental roles, sleepwalk through the film, offering no
passion or intricacy to bring the characters to life.
Because the only truly interesting scenes come in the twisty
third act, the bulk of the film relies on these actors to carry the story to
its payoff, and the movie suffers because of that. Also, the lack of interest
in the goings-on from police, neighbors or any inquisitive body at all sticks
out like a sore thumb, especially following the disappearances of teenagers and
teachers. Gorehounds may also be disappointed, as the flick has very few
splattery moments, offering only slightly bloody reveals.
THE COTTAGE is at least watchable, despite the multiple
misgivings attending the scripting and cast, though the mediocre sound design
and poor cinematography may turn off cinephiles, and the solid, unsettling core
basis of the movie is downgraded to an offhand, undeveloped twist. And for
further disappointment, the bare-bones DVD contains no special features besides
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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