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Our review of The Cottage (2008), published April 25th, 2008, is also available.
Terror is right outside your window.
No, it isn't.
I watch a film like The Cottage, and I grieve for the exploitation films of the '70s. Had The Cottage, with its kinky underbelly, been made in those halcyon days of sleaze, it might have been a skeevy masterpiece of the genre, a celebration of deviance filled tricked out with a lot of arbitrary nudity; unfortunately, in the 21st Century, we get a neutered, pseudo-titillating psycho thriller that could play on network TV without a single frame cut for objectionable content.
The Carpenter family lives on a huge piece of property with two houses, a garden, and a swimming pool. They rent out the second house—the cottage—for some apparently much-needed extra cash.
When a soon-to-be new tenant is injured in an accident and has to back out of the lease, things look bleak—until an online ad produces Robert (David Arquette, Scream), a soft-spoken romance novelist(!) who thinks the place is perfect.
Before moving on, I should mention that the Carpenter household is a sea of TV-movie style angst: dad Michael (Victor Browne, The Confessional) has a new wife, Chloe (Kristen Dalton, The Departed), and an infant daughter. He also has a pair of teen daughters (Morissa and Alana O'Malley) from his first marriage who resent that he hooked up with Chloe evidently moments after their mom breathed her last. The younger daughter downright loathes her.
So, we've got a tense and unhappy family, and a mysterious, off-beatedly sexy stranger, which means we've got…the plot of around ten thousand cheap-o low-rent shockers. How does The Cottage distinguish itself from the rest of the herd?
I can't tell you. That would be a spoiler, and I have a strict policy against giving away spoilers, even for films like The Cottage that almost demand to be spoiled.
I will say this: There's kind of a fun premise here, but they blow it. Whether the filmmakers were too timid to fully embrace the exploitation possibilities, too bored as they watched this unfold, or if they just assumed that having the eccentric Arquette playing an eccentric character would be enough, I can't say; I can say that this should have been a whole lot more intriguing. It seems that what might have started as a smarmy shocker just got cleaned up and dumbed down.
This is a film awash in Why and How Did They Do That? moments. Like: If you think something sinister is going on and you're not comfortable in your own home, WHY do you walk around with the lights out? Or: If someone calls you and alerts you to a dangerous situation, WHY would you put your cell phone down and leave it while going to investigate? And: If a good guy and a bad guy are having a verbal confrontation, and the bad guy walks away, HOW does he end up in the good guy's house a scene later?
It's all very predictable and clumsy, with killings happening for no reason other than this is a movie about killings, and a big reveal that doesn't tie things together at all.
The disc from E1 offers a TV-decent standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image, Dolby 5.1 Surround and Dolby 2.0 Stereo sound, and a trailer.
There's just too much cheese in this cottage. The promise of the premise is wall-to-wall sleaze, but the tepid goings on are a snore-on-the-floor.
Guilty of overmodesty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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