In the horror comedy Cottage Country, a doormat named Todd (Tyler Labine) discovers you can make all the plans you want, but sometimes you’re going to accidentally murder your brother with an ax and ruin everything. Todd’s plan is to spend a week at his parent’s lakefront cabin with his girlfriend Cammie (Malin Akerman) and, when the moment is perfect, pop the question. However, the mood is spoiled when Todd’s ne’er-do-well, “artist” brother Salinger (Dan Petronijevic) and his oddball girlfriend Masha (Lucy Punch) turn up. An argument between Todd and Salinger over cabin-occupancy rights rapidly escalates, culminating suddenly with the ax-murder. Todd confesses to Cammie and a new plan is hatched to cover their tracks and still have a picturesque week – by any means necessary.
Cottage Country gives Labine a chance to revisit the same “pushover who goes into the woods and ends up in over his head” character that he nailed in 2010’s classic Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. While Labine succeeds, most of what’s going on around him doesn’t match the high bar set by that film.
One element which is absolutely on point, besides Labine, is the criminally underrated Lucy Punch. She’s clearly having a blast burying herself behind an almost unintelligible and unquantifiable Eastern European accent. Her Masha gets these moments of clarity where a demented sense of humor shines through. Masha nearly totally buries the forgettable Salinger as a foil for Todd and Cammie, almost to the point where the film might have been better served ditching him entirely and just doing some sort of triangle with the three others.
Cammie’s arc is another instance where the film drops the ball. Sure, the movie is a horror comedy, a subgenre not known as the domain of complex characters. However, the moment she hears the news of Salinger’s untimely passing, Cammie takes a hard right, becoming this manipulative, selfish she-devil. Todd gets a few quiet moments following the kill where you can see his brain is struggling to catch up with what his body did. Cammie? She jumps right into a speech about sunk relationship costs, her unrelenting need to have kids, and sweeps Todd into how the pair can blow passed all this and still have a great week. It’s a cheap character development, one that the film tries to make up for later with a brief scene showing she has indeed been affected by what happened. It’s too late by then and even her guilt is colored entirely by how the murder could impact her dream wedding.
Cottage Country sports a twist in its third act which completely reworks the nature of Todd and Cammie’s nature relationship. It’s one that, had the movie shown a little restraint, would build logically off the painful deterioration of Cammie’s morality. The movie shows zero restraint and dives in whole hog, taking the twist to a degree that it never earned. It cheapens everything that came before it and removes any weight from what comes after.
Comparisons to a better and similar, at least in one respect, film in Tucker and Dale will do Cottage Country no favors. The film’s storyline and characters take some disagreeable turns and the laughs are light outside of Labine and Punch. Cottage Country is a merely OK horror comedy and not one worthy of frequent revisiting.