David Arquette makes me giggle...not scream in terror. E One has released The Cottage, the 2012 straight-to-DVD thriller starring le goofballe extraordinaire David Arquette and assorted other very pretty, anonymous actors. Purportedly based on a true story, The Cottage is sleek-looking but incredibly dumb, with a derivative storyline and all the expected character logic stupidities you've come to expect in this kind of mindless, mechanical suspenser. Cripes, we don't even get any decent nudity or violence, and therefore I ask you: what's the point? A trailer is included in this sharp-looking transfer.
Tensions are running high in the plush home of the Carpenters. New mom Chloe (Kristen Dalton) not only has a baby to care for, but she also has to put up with two difficult stepkids: Danielle and Rose Carpenter (Morissa and Alana O'Mara). Rose is quiet and shy and awkward around others, while Danielle, deeply resentful of her former teacher Chloe immediately screwing her dad, composer Michael (Victor Browne), right after her mother died, is a snotty, disobedient brat. Into this happy home comes Robert Mars (David Arquette), a romance novelist (hee hee!) who's looking to rent the Carpenters' spacious "cottage" (it's bigger than most people's homes) back by the Carpenters' $75,000+ swimming pool. You see, the "cottage" was rented to a nice girl, Lauren, for the summer, but Lauren's sister, Vanessa (Lorraine Nicholson), comes by in tears and lets Chloe know that Lauren was in a bad car accident, so the "cottage" is up for grabs. Enter Robert. However, the too-good-to-be-true Robert begins to creep people out at the Carpenters, and before you know it, those same people start disappearing....
Jesus what a waste of time. Now, to begin: let's get categories out of the way. First, The Cottage isn't a horror movie (why did I think it was from that artwork?); it's a thriller. And it's most definitely not an exploitation work. The blandly glossy tech credits are the opposite of enjoyable cheapjack, while the movie delivers zero nudity (despite Dalton's nice body) and, relatively speaking, little if any blood during its killings. Nice camerawork + 0 nude scenes (or even simulated sex, fercrissakes) ± lame killings = non-exploitive material. So what does that leave us with? Boring, exceedingly timid melodrama masquerading as a thriller, I guess. Anyone who's read my reviews knows I'm an avowed fan of Lifetime Movie Network, where sh*t way more primal and enjoyable than The Cottage goes down every day. So if you're going to muscle in on LMN's territory, trying to grab the attention of those frazzled, pissed-off, overworked, underpaid, cheated-on and lied-to women who want to see 1) good-looking guys taking their shirts off to simulate slo-mo humping with pretty, non-threatening viewer surrogates, 2) same-said guys either cheating on or trying to kill same said pretty, non-threatening viewer surrogates, and 3) same-said guys getting their brains bashed in by same said pretty, non-threatening viewer surrogates...then you best have your game face on.
Alas, The Cottage is way too tame to spark the interest of exploitation fans, and way too derivative and dumb to work as a mainstream shocker. Part Unlawful Entry, part The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, part The Strangers, and part about a thousand other similar outings, The Cottage fails to bring anything new or interesting to its conventional set-up, nor does it at least do its familiar job simply and competently (hey, "familiar" is fine as long as it's got some balls). There are lot of places you can start when trying to find out where and why The Cottage bombs...from the most mundane and nit-picky (why do the apparently loaded Carpenters need to rent that "cottage" out in the first place?), to clichéd (characters always winding up alone, or going back inside houses they shouldn't, or, um...leaving babies in trucks with madmen running around in the woods...), to the absolutely vital (who the hell is Arquette, exactly; who the hell are his "brides," exactly; and why the hell, exactly, are they killing people―and don't give me that dodge about "you're not supposed to know; it's random and mysterious").
But let's face it: it's pointless and a waste of time racking your brain for answers here. Screenwriter Nick Antosca obviously doesn't know, nor does director Chris Jaymes. And if they don't know, how (or why) should we? Besides...how can you take The Cottage seriously with David Arquette as the head psycho? Now, I'm actually a fan of the perpetually guffawing actor; with the right material and a strong director, he can be quite funny and charming (check him out on talk shows like Stern or Watch What Happens Live: he's always quick and quirky and amusing). However, "threatening" or "dangerously sexy" or "charismatic cult leader" or "Manson-like death dealer" or "psycho-sexual sheik to twenty-some gonzo killer brides" he most decidedly ain't. If another version of The Cottage, just as inept and formulaic as this one, had starred a different actor better suited to the role...it still would have stunk. But you might have at least jumped once or twice...instead of giggling and gradually zoning out.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.