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After the countless indie genre movies wearing the influence
of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD on their blood-smeared sleeves
without carrying over the human interest, it’s nice to see one that’s more in
the character-based vein of THE WALKING DEAD—though the production of THE
COLLAPSED predates the airing of the AMC show. And while hardcore horror fans
should be advised that Canadian writer/director Justin McConnell takes the tack
of keeping the physical threat largely offscreen, he nonetheless builds a
considerable amount of tension simply through the efforts of his protagonists
to survive it.
We first meet the Weaver family—father Scott (John
Fantasia), mother Emily (Lisa Moule) and their son Aaron (Steve Vieira) and
daughter Rebecca (Anna Ross) as they’re bunkered down in the darkness of an
abandoned building, the distant sounds of gunfire and explosions outside. We
aren’t initially told the exact nature of what’s going on, but all we need to
know are the basics: Some kind of infection has swept the populace, resulting
in mass death and decimation, and the Weavers appear to be among the few
survivors. With civilization, well, collapsing, Scott decides they should flee
the city and head for their previous hometown of Dover’s Bend, where his
estranged son may still be living. The trek through the rural countryside (shot
on assorted Ontario locations) will be a dangerous one, though, due not only to
the deadly presences lurking just out of sight amidst the trees, but to the
uninfected humans who have nonetheless resorted to violence to keep themselves
It’s a familiar scenario, of course, but McConnell makes it
work by keeping a tight focus on the Weavers’ family dynamic—and in the
process, using the familiarity of the postapocalyptic-survival subgenre to his
advantage. As if knowing that viewers will be well aware of the tropes of the
form, he doesn’t get into a lot of unnecessary explanations or backgrounding.
Rather, he drops us into the midst of the situation, gives us the very broad
strokes of what’s going on and then follows the Weavers on the run, through the
woods and a few abandoned dwellings, trying to keep themselves together,
formulate (and agree on) a plan and dodge those who are trying to kill them.
McConnell sprinkles enough violent encounters through THE
COLLAPSED to keep his narrative from running in place—and even more crucially,
doesn’t always take them in the direction you expect. While the movie’s
emphasis is on slow-burning suspense, there are a few moments that are
genuinely shocking, paying off on the emotional investment the writer/director
builds for his characters. He gets good work out of his actors, too, who do
strong work both as individuals and in establishing a believable, cohesive
family, even as the parents and children often disagree on the course of action
He and co-producer/co-story writer/designer Kevin Hutchinson
have also overseen a technically polished production that’s slick without
vamping for viewer attention—visually and aurally, it enhances the drama while
staying out of its way. There’s a naturalistic feel to both Pasha Patriki’s
sharp RED cinematography and George Flores’ sound design that keeps the
proceedings identifiable, with an effective score by Rob Kleiner that eschews
the rattle and hum often heard in movies of this type. The makeup FX by Carlos
Henriques (veteran of a number of Canadian-lensed genre productions) et al.
follow suit, remaining simple and visceral rather than indulging in exaggerated
“Modest” is probably not a good word to use to try to build
enthusiasm for an indie fright flick these days, but it’s one of THE
COLLAPSED’s virtues that it doesn’t try to out-gross or out-flash the many
other features in its field. Its goals are simple, its aim is direct and in
keeping the viewer tense, guessing and occasionally gasping, it gets the job
done. You can see the movie's official website here.
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