I just got The Cottage from Netflix and watched it last night and decided it should be my inaugural review. So, let's hear a bit about the movie first, eh?
Plot: David (Andy Serkis, best known as the actor behind Gollum and King Kong's motion capturing) and his brother Peter have kidnapped a girl and demanded ransom for her safe return. The problem is that Peter is a bumbling wimp and can't seem to do anything right. After some poorly executed ransom payoffs, Peter, David, and another incompetent crook Andrew end up with two Asian hitment tracking them down in the middle of nowhere seeking the girl. David has to go into the nearest village to make a call and gets warned not to leave the cottage and lock his doors. David does not heed this advice, of course.
David comes back to the cottage to find Peter and the girl have gone off into the woods after she managed to get free of her restraints and hold him at knife point. Andrew and David set off in the woods to find him and discover there is a homicidal maniac stalking them out there. It's a disfigured farmer and they've stumbled onto his land, which he doesn't like! Peter and the girl are being stalked as well, and they all have to fight to keep the farmer from killing them.
Cinematography: This movie does a great job at setting up scenes and shots. It's well done and doesn't use any of the sort of cliched horror angles or shots. It's very well set up and the director does a great job of framing and staging. The scenery is really well done and the setting perfect for the movie. Paul Andrew Williams does and excellent job of using long range shots to give you a scope of just how huge and remote the woods are. Shots of the farmer's house and ranch are also quite well done. You would never know that the movie was not a big budget hollywood movie and in fact exceeds most of those. I give it a 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.
Execution: Well, the movie is definitely not an entirely original idea. Some crazed, country bumpkin is killing people that wander into his unfortunate path. The farmer is disfigured and utterly relentless, kills with no remorse, and had some tragic past experience that made him the way he is. I had hoped for a bit more with the Asian hitmen and sort of playing off how the characters would be in double jeopardy, having the farmer and the hitmen to watch out for, but they really don't end up being that big of a part of the movie. However, even operating in the confines of a setting that's been done a lot (Wrong Turn, TCM, Masters of Horror, The Hills Have Eyes, etc), it manages to entertain. The farmer and his backstory definitely make for a decent character. The acting is top notch and the characters are very entertaining. You definitely want to see some of them live and some of them die. It earns a respectable 3.5 out of 5 for Execution.
Sub-Genre Comparison: Well, like I said, it's a pretty familiar story. But it definitely stacks up well against the recent entries with hilbilly/mutant people getting all territorial over their land. It's definitely better than The Hills Have Eyes 2 and I would say it is better than Wrong Turn (which was pretty darn good). I haven't seen Wrong Turn 2, but I've heard good things, so that may come up soon. As for the classics, I will probably never hold it as high as the original TCM or Hills, but it's a worthy modern send up. I was impressed with it's ability to not only scare, but also to make fun of itself. I would say against others, it would be a 4 out of 5.
Production Value: As I said before, you would never really know that it wasn't a big budget movie if it weren't for the fact you've never heard of it before. It's well shot and the acting's well done. The gore is quite effective as well, choosing to go with traditional effects instead of CGI, something I respect greatly. Beheading someone with a shovel, a machete through the torso, and a spinal cord being ripped out are what you have to look forward to. They are all quite well done and entertaining to watch, not taking away anything from the movie itself. I'm not an overly huge gorehound, but this was pretty fun to watch and added to the overall atmosphere of the movie. It will hold up quite well, I'm sure. It definitely deserves a 4 out of 5 for Production Value as well.
Scares: Here's really the only place where the movie falters a bit. It does have some decent scares, good tension with the isolation, but it relies a bit too much on the jump scare. The farmer is a good character, but with the type of movie it is, he's not a terribly imposing figure, just something that pops out to scare when he has to. The other thing is that the movie is very lighthearted at times, which makes it hard to keep up the tension. I like the comedy aspects of the movie, but it's not terribly frightening. That being said, it still succeeds far more than a lot of other movies, but I think it hovers right around average at 3 out of 5 for Scares.
So, when we do the final tally, we see that The Cottage ends up with a respectable 18.5 out of 25 whatevers (I don't have a unit of measure yet, but I'm open to suggestion). It's better than a lot of other movies out there, but not really a masterpiece. Definitely worth checking out if you can!