Judge Daryl Loomis takes pride in his ability to drink warm, expired beer.
As our world ends, their nightmare begins.
With the success of stories like The Walking Dead and the somehow persistent apocalyptic beliefs, end of times and survivalist horror have become increasingly popular in recent years. Whether that's a sign of people's attitudes or just that they're easy to make is a discussion for another time, but we do get a pretty good example of it in The Collapsed, a Canadian indie that gets the job done without trying to do too much.
Facts of the Case
The world may have ended, but not even that can break up the Weaver family. Dad, mom, and two kids are trying to stay as far from the former towns as possible while trying to get back to their old town where a third child lives, but they must stop at a gas station for whatever supplies they can scavenge. They don't know that a pair of machine gun wielding creeps has the place staked out. When the Weavers see them, they race off into the woods, but once they see what's out there, they'll wish they never left the city in the first place.
We never learn what happened to society and that's probably the right thing to do. Writer/director/editor (and, it turns out, caterer) Justin McConnell (Working Class Rock Star) just makes the audience accept it and, within the first few minutes, establishes basically everything necessary to the plot. We have the family, the initial villains, and that's all. Beyond that, he advances the plot through that rare horror device called character development. Aside from the palpable tension he builds here, the first act is consumed by a lot of dialog. Just as we start to understand and sympathize with the characters, McConnell pulls the rug out in a surprise that dramatically alters the state of the movie.
Though the story changes, The Collapsed maintains its reliance on character and dialog as the story comes to its conclusion, which doesn't exactly come out of nowhere, but works well. Most of the heavy lifting comes from John Fantasia, though he takes a little getting used to. His style is normal, but he has a wavering accent that I couldn't figure out until discovering he's a long-time US resident from Australia. After getting accustomed to it, though, it becomes easy to see how much effort he put into the role. Everybody does pretty well, especially for the budget, but Fantasia does the most work by far.
The Collapsed is more tense than it is scary and a lot less violent than I expected it to be. There's certainly some bloodshed, especially toward the end, but it is fairly restrained. It's to the movie's benefit, for sure, by allowing the tension to build on its own and making the red stuff much more impactful by its relative scarcity.
Shot on the RED One camera and color corrected in post-production, The Collapsed looks a whole lot better than its very low budget. It really looks great thanks to some fine photography by Pasha Patriki (Kenneyville) and a simple but effective vision from McConnell, who gives up enough to keep the movie exciting, but is a lot more restrained than many young filmmakers who would have piled it on, and The Collapsed is a lot better for it.
Anchor Bay's DVD of The Collapsed is one of the better independent genre releases I've seen in a while. Technically, it it's impressive, especially for its budget, and the extras would be exhaustive for a major market release, let alone for something like this. The image is sharp and clean, though the color correction makes the overall look a little darker than I think it needs to be, but the black levels and bright scenes are all nearly perfect. The audio is even better. The stereo mix is what it is, but the surround sound is excellent, with great separation and a lot of action in the surround channels; a few bits actually startled me, so I certainly won't complain.
Neither can I argue with the quantity of extras on the disc. It's stacked, starting with two audio commentaries. The first is with director McConnell and producer Kevin Hutchinson. It's a pretty normal production discussion, but it's engaging and interesting. The second is with John Fantasia, and it's fairly interesting as well, at least when you can hear it. It sounds like he recorded the talk from a cell phone, making him hard to understand and making the commentary pretty much unlistenable. A feature length production documentary is next, though it isn't on the disc itself. Instead, it provides a username and password to watch the piece online. I suspect the number of other features on the disc made its direct inclusion impossible, but it's still a little strange. Regardless, it runs longer than the movie does and has a ton of information, though a number of stories are redundant from the production commentary. McConnell's screenplay and the score by Rob Kleiner (Stuck!) are available as downloads, which I appreciate. Filling out the disc, we have a photo gallery, a music video, some bios, and a couple of trailers.
The Collapsed is a solid film with a good spirit and a lot of skill behind the camera. It may not be the most memorable survival horror picture out there, but it's definitely worth a look.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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