A Canadian dark comedy, “Cottage Country” tries to walk a very line between moments of grim humor and bloody violence. It tells the story of a young couple who want to go out for a weekend by the lake only for things to go very, very wrong. Some of the gags are hit and miss, but the two leads manage to keep you engaged despite doing very bad things as the weekend goes by.
Todd (Tyler Labine) is eager to take his surprisingly beautiful girlfriend Cammie (Malin Akerman) to his parents’ cottage so he can propose. Things are off to a bad start when Todd’s boss makes him work late, leading to a delay and to Cammie telling him he should start being more assertive. Later in the evening their plans are further interrupted at one of the worse possible moments when Todd’s no-good brother Salinger (Dan Petronijevic) shows up with his bizarre Slavic girlfriend Masha (Lucy Punch). Despite his literary name, Salinger is a human leach with no real job and zero respect for boundaries. Cammie makes things abundantly clear: Todd needs to man up and make Sal leave immediately.
While the girls are out picking mushrooms, the boys have a talk. The talk turns into an argument, and the argument turns into a brother fight complete with slaps, wedgies and nipple twisting. Brothers, what are you gonna do? The story goes into a much darker territory when Todd grabs an axe and in a moment of unleashed anger kills his brother. Taking time to consider what he did, he hides the body, cleans himself up, and proposes to Cammie before confessing his crime.
She takes it surprisingly well. Refusing to wait for her fiancé to complete a prison sentence, she comes up with a plan to cover up the crime and eventually get married at that very cottage. Taking complete control of the situation, she believes she can still get her happily ever after. Of course the more Todd and Cammie try to cover things up, the deeper they get into trouble. Sometimes committing the crime is the easy part. Getting away with it on the other hand…
There are some funny moments here, notably once Cammie takes over and bosses her boyfriend around regarding the proper disposal of a crime scene. If you ever wanted to see Malin Akerman utter the sentence “Be a good boyfriend and go get the axe,” this is your movie.
Labine and Akerman are both great throughout. They start off as a pretty average couple who call each other by cutesy nicknames, but the events of the weekend change them radically. Todd goes from a relative pushover to a murderer, and eventually the guilt takes him to the edge of madness. Cammie on the hand goes from sweet blonde to psycho Lady Macbeth in a desperate attempt to get married while she is still young.
On the other hand, Lucy Punch is wasted as Sal’s girlfriend. Her accent is cartoonish and sometimes unintelligible. I assume the things she says and does are supposed to be humorous, but she is just weird. The character comes off as a failed caricature and should have been completely re-thought.
The blend of bloody violence and occasional humor of “Cottage Country” make for an uneven combination. This could have been easily edited into a full-blown thriller so sometimes you are just not sure if you should be laughing. The film’s saving grace is its two leads who remain convincing as a couple even while they are debating whether they should dump a body in the lake first or start by getting rid of the car.
(“Cottage Country” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.)