Peter (Reece Shearsmith of the comedy troupe The League of Gentlemen) is a real wimp. He's got a domineering wife and even a fear of moths. So how'd he end up holding a pottymouthed gangster's daughter (Jennifer Ellison) hostage in an isolated country cottage with his brother, a hardened criminal (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings)? From writer/director Paul Andrew Williams, this horror-comedy is an about-face from his gritty, award-winning debut, the crime thriller London to Brighton. From the beginning, every step of Peter and his brother's simple plan goes wrong. Their head-butting hostage seems to be more trouble than she's worth, her bumbling brother (Steve O'Donnell, Shakespeare in Love), who is in on the scheme, can't even get a decent ski mask, and they certainly hadn't counted on two murderous Chinese gangsters lurking in the woods. When their hostage escapes on a bathroom break, the chase leads them to a seemingly abandoned farmhouse where someone dangerous lurks-and he has an axe, a freezer full of hands, and who knows what in the basement. A slapstick splatter film in the tradition of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, The Cottage wrings imaginative twists from the usual slice-anddice formula of the genre. Made on a shoestring, Williams' film begins on a claustrophobically small scale, making its transition into gory Grand Guignol all the more unexpected. Shearsmith, turning in the kind of nuanced performance one doesn't usually expect in a horror film, is its bleeding heart and battered soul.