Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: The Collective Vol. 1

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think Jabb Pictures had one of the best DVD ideas of all time with The Collective. The Collective is a collection (it’s not an anthology since there’s no wraparound story) of 10 short films, each running 10 minutes, each made by a different independent filmmaker. Each collection will have a phrase or object that the films all have to center around, and it’s up to the filmmaker to interpret that theme however they want. Why is this such a great idea? Well, first of all, it’s showcasing indie horror, which is always a good thing. If you read this blog, you know that I’m all about some independent horror, and this is true indie filmmaking. We’re not talking “but it only cost 2 million, so it’s low budget” independent here. This is homemade horror. Some of these look like they were made for the cost of some fake blood and a couple of pizzas to feed everyone who was working for free. I love that. When you don’t have the gloss bought by a big budget, you have to get creative. You have to improvise. You have to rely on your talent and imagination to make your film effective rather than just making it slick looking, and that’s when the real magic happens. Films like this sadly often don’t get a big chance to be showcased outside of a few festival screenings. That’s why I love the fact that these collections are available.
Secondly, it’s fascinating to see how they all explore the central theme in a different way. The theme for this one was “The Meat Eater.” It’s a theme that lends itself well to horror, but there are nearly infinite ways you can go with that. It’s like in high school when you were doing creative writing and the teacher would give you an opening sentence and tell you to run with it. Seeing so many different variations of the theme makes for interesting viewing and each film already has that “which way are they gonna go with it?” intrigue before it even begins.
Third, it has what I call the “three ring circus” effect. It’s an old show business idea meaning that if you don’t dig the clowns in ring 1, you’ll like the lion tamer in ring 3 or the acrobats in ring 2. With 10 different interpretations and 10 different styles, there’s something here that people of all tastes will enjoy. Plus, if you’re not into one of ‘em, you only have to wait 9 more minutes and there will be something completely different. That’s pure brilliance right there Cellmates.
Please remember a couple of things while reading this review. First of all, I gave the name of the production company and the title only. That’s just too many casts and crews to discuss individually. Second, some of this may sound pretty vague, but you kinda have to be to avoid spoilers for a 10-minute movie. With that said, on with the flicks…

1. The Cult of Moi and Vous - Sascratch vs. Afrodesius: The Giant Rubber Monster Movie.
The same filmmakers behind The Italian Zombie Movie 1&2 bring us this tale of time travel, giant monsters, serial killers, dino-men, luchadors, vegetarianism, and military intrigue. It’s outlandish, silly, cheesy, and pretty damn funny. It’s one of those intentionally bad genre parodies. It features horror host cameos, a couple of good actors including one 10 year old kid, horrible special effects, and enough weird goofiness that you can’t help but crack up. The “we all have our demons” scene is worth the price of the DVD all by itself. I literally laughed at that ‘til I cried.
2. Darkrider Studios – Meateater
This one also took the comedic approach. This time we get a found footage style flick about rednecks hunting down a monster that’s been eating the townsfolk. The rednecks are played very over the top, and it’s good for a few laughs. Some of the jokes fall a little flat, but a really cool ending makes up for it.
3. Graphic 13 Films – Whistling Past the Graveyard
Two men discuss superstition after a funeral, while the maniac behind The Meateater Murders prowls the streets for victims. In a couple of spots, the acting kept this one from being as good as it could have been. Twice someone finds a body, and they react like they found a dead squirrel. More energy folks! Let’s hear a real scream! Go nuts with it! On the other hand, the scenes involving the killer had a nice sense of malice to them. The makeup on his lips was very good, and the “thing in the back seat” really added an extra wicked dimension to the ending. Aside from people who just can’t bring themselves to freak out, I dug it.
4. Liberty or Death Productions – Zracne Vile
Two men at a bar are discussing a recent dis-“member”-ment, when an old man (who looks a hell of a lot like Billy Connolly as Il Duce) tells them a tale that may have a connection to the murder. It has a fun EC Comics like feel to it, it had much better use of a green screen than you usually see in films at this budget level, and some scenes have a storybook/dreamlike quality that I appreciated. It has a good twist, but I’m not sure it’s fully realized. It needed a little more fleshing out in the middle. I think this would have worked better at 15 or maybe 20 minutes. It seems like they just tried to do too much within the time allotted, which you can’t fault them for. Trying to do too much is a hell of a lot better than not doing enough though. Speaking of which…

5. So-So Pix – Snow Angels
This is the only one out of this collection that I really didn’t dig. It seems to me that they got too wrapped up in trying to do something different and “artsy” that they forgot to, well, be entertaining or tell a story. That will be a running theme throughout the Collective series by the way; the more “arthouse” entries tend to be the weakest. The first two minutes are the credits and a shot out the windshield of a car as it drives snowy streets. Then we get a static shot of a winding country road with a girl slowly walking towards the camera. This shot is 6 minutes long! Then something happens (I won’t say what it is since it’s the only thing that happens, but I didn’t find it worth the wait), and she spends 2 more minutes walking away. How do you make 10 minutes feel way too long? Like this. Then again, I read a review where the reviewer said that this was the best one of the bunch. Snow Angel just didn’t do it for me though.
6. Quatro Vento Scott – Graveyard Blues
Now THAT’s more like it. This is what’s known as playing to your strengths and hiding your weaknesses. It’s obvious that they didn’t have shit for a budget, but it didn’t matter because it had atmosphere. Loads of atmosphere. Shit loads of atmosphere! It’s the story of a pact made between an other worldly being and a village ages ago and a girl who wants to see the truth about what lies at the heart of the town’s grisly traditions for herself. It has a Lovecraftian vibe to it, which I love. I had a feeling they were going where they were going with the ending, but it was still a good reveal. I think they probably should have ended it 21 seconds earlier, as it would have been a stronger ending, but that’s just my opinion. The only problem is with the sound editing. There are times when the music completely drowns out the central monologue. Minor technical problem notwithstanding, this is what micro-budget filmmaking is all about.
7. Jabb Pictures – The Meat Eater
You can tell that most of these filmmakers are from colder areas, because there sure is a hell of a lot of snow in these flicks. It’s enough to make a Georgia boy jealous. Anyway, Jabb, who put this collection together, turn in probably the best short in the collection. A man is trapped in his house. A large figure has hunted and eaten the rest of the town. Is he a man? Is he a monster? Is he a zombie? We’re not sure, but we do know this…it wants to eat our final survivor. This one was a good old-fashioned monster siege story. I think the “Meateater” was supposed to be a zombie, but I’m not sure. It’s never really stated. He kinda reminded me of George Eastman’s cannibal character from Anthropophagus. I like that what he is is left ambiguous. The basement set is cool, the outdoor lighting looks great, it’s well acted and shot, and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

8. Over Analyzed Productions – Um, I don’t see a title, so…
After being dumped by his cheating girlfriend, Matt calls up Revenge Radio and, well, I’ll leave it at that. I wanted more intensity from Matt at the beginning. He was too sedate to sell me on his heart breaking. I absolutely loved the Revenge Radio concept. I’d love to see a feature film based around it. It’s a plot device with a lot of potential. There was some cool camera work going on here. The texting trick was a good idea. It allowed them to compress a lot of exposition into just a few seconds. Smart filmmaking. Brad Scaggs as the DJ, who was only shown in Warriors style extreme close-up, positively owned the screen. That voice was perfect. Actually, scratch that feature idea. I wanna see a Revenge Radio anthology series with Brad Scaggs (as Mike “The Meat” Eader) hosting.
9. So-So Pix – Cornfed
So-So comes back with a winner. This was directed by 13 year old Dakota Meyer. I’m gonna repeat that for emphasis; this one was directed by a 13 year old! It’s a straightforward story of a cannibal and a little girl. There’s some really good camera work here, Dakota has obviously been studying. Sound issues rear their ugly head when you can’t hear what the girl says on the porch at all, but that’s a small quibble. Did I mention that a 13 year old did this? I’m very interested to see what Dakota is capable of as he gets older, because he displays a lot of raw talent here. Once he gets more experienced and polished, this kid is really gonna “wow” us all.
10. Jason Hoover – not sure if it’s the actual title, but A Mark of Wholesome Meat is the first title card we see, so I’m going with that.
This is basically slaughterhouse footage cut into old documentaries about the meat industry with bizarre audio juxtapositions. It’s pretty unsettling. We hear pig squeals as pork carcasses go down the “disassembly” line. A pig slowly dies hanging from a forklift as “Rump Shaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect plays. The atmosphere swings back and forth wildly from comical to unnerving. This was a very different take on the theme, and it gets under your skin very well. I really want to show this to a vegetarian and watch their face.
There’s something for everyone here. Horror comedy? Got it. Serial Killers? Got it. Arthouse? Got it. Monsters? It’s here. Gore? Yep. This is a great concept, and I applaud Jason Hoover, Jabb Pictures, and all of the filmmakers involved for executing it so well. If you’re a fan of indie horror, you can’t go wrong with this one. The Meat Eater’s got bite. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out. It’s available HERE.


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