Directed by Peter Wellington
Considering how Canadian-helmed cottage horror comedies like the award-winning Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and A Little Bit Zombie became huge hits at the Fantasia Film Festival, it came as no surprise that the highly anticipated Cottage Country would make its North American premiere at the festival that welcomes and praises home-grown horror.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil star Tyler Labine makes his return to the blood-soaked country as Todd, a sweet, albeit spineless blue-collared man who plans to propose to his slightly ball-busting long-term girlfriend Cammie (Malin Akerman) on a week-long vacation to his parents’ cottage.
All Todd wants is a peaceful and quiet time at the cottage with the love of his life; however, his plan for the perfect proposal comes to a screaming halt when his scummy, exasperating “artist” brother Salinger (Petronijevic) and his eccentric Russian girlfriend Masha (Punch) show up at the cottage unannounced, despite the fact that it was Todd’s turn to use the family cottage.
After Cammie demands that Todd kick out the two unwanted guests, his passive aggressive nature takes a turn for the worse when a fight with his brother leads to a surprising act of homicidal rage. However, when Todd confesses his life-altering mistake to Cammie, he soon realizes that she will do anything to “get a ring on it” — including murder, and the pair’s best laid plans spiral and go utterly awry.
In the spirit of the dark comedy Very, Very Bad Things, director Peter Wellington and writer Jeremy Boxen deliver a mean-spirited horror indie that conveys the pressures that societal conventions impose on couples in a humorous manner. The acting in particular is the film’s strongest attribute as Tyler Labine and Malin Akerman are able to play off each other flawlessly, whereas character actors Dan Petronijevic, Lucy Punch, “Twin Peaks” veteran Kenneth Welsh and even scene-stealing Benjamin Ayres (who plays the suspicious and sarcastic best friend of Salinger) are able to entertain viewers despite their brief screen times.
In spite of the fact that Cottage Country wins over audiences right away with its highly-paced first act, sadly the film loses a lot of its violent steam after the half-hour mark. After the film’s shocking first twenty minutes that changes the whole trajectory of the film from then on in, Cottage Country never fully lives up to the malicious potential it promises (even with its epic War of The Roses-inspired finale) and this could have been easily solved if the filmmakers had let the engaging conflict between the main characters go on a bit longer before letting body parts fly.
Nonetheless, despite its unevenly paced missteps, the film delivers the bloody goods with some fairly memorable kills that had the Fantasia crowd hooting and hollering for more and it even left some viewers chuckling after some amusing dream-like sequences reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London, which again could have been better received if the sequences were more frequent and developed.
Cottage Country may not be the greatest Cabin in the Woods horror comedy we have seen in recent years; nevertheless, it still has heart, ambition and potential it takes to accommodate easy to please fans who fully support Canadian horror.
3 out of 5