Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: The Collective Vol. 4

First of all, I have to apologize to Jason Hoover and JABB pictures for taking so long to get this review done. Life gets in the way sometimes…
The Collective is back, and this time they’re getting in touch with their emotions. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean we’re going the Lifetime/Hallmark route. No, what we’ve got here is an exploration of the darker side of the emotional spectrum. For those of you who are new to the Collective series (you can read my reviews of Vol. 1,2, and 3 HERE, HERE, and HERE), I’ll explain the format. 10 different filmmakers are given a central theme. They then each produce a 10-minute (approx) short film giving their take on the concept. This one is a little different. Instead of having one central idea, like “10 Minutes to Live” or an object like “The Box” that everyone had to incorporate, JABB left the concept more open. Each film focuses on a different emotion. So, how did Vol. 4 stack up against the first three installments? Let’s break ‘em down one by one, shall we?
1. Untitled – JABB Pictures
Emotion: Grief
This was a killer way to start the show. A couple finds themselves in a dimly lit basement; tied to chairs and being menaced by two men hell bent on vengeance…but for what? The unique thing about this short is that it was filmed in one continuous take, and consists of one continuous circular dolly shot. The use of shadow is perfect. It obscures the physical violence at times, leaving the screams to tell the story. The only issue is that the villains are sometimes hard to understand, but it doesn’t really hurt the overall effect. There was one little detail that I absolutely loved. **SPOILER ALERT** One of the things that people often don’t handle well in movies is strangulation. It drives me nuts. They make it too quick. It takes a while to strangle someone. Here, when one of the characters is strangled, they keep gasping for air for a good long time after the initial struggle. It was the best strangulation I’ve seen in ages. **END SPOILER ALERT** JABB comes through as usual.
2. Contrition – 3 O’Clock Productions
Emotion: Regret
A scientist must fight for her family when an experiment goes awry. This entry was about as technically sound as it gets. It looks great. The acting was on point. The only thing I can call it on technically is a nitpick; when someone says “You son of a…” they should be cut off, not just stop talking. It was extremely well directed, but I wish it had been a little more visceral, or a little more suspenseful, or a little more…well, anything. As Leah put it, it needed “more umph.” There is a lot of well-done dialog, but the action needed to hit a little harder to balance it. I did enjoy the little nod to Psycho at the end though. Not bad by any means, just a little flat. It was written and directed by Jim Dougherty, who I met at Days of the Dead Atlanta. He gave me a copy of Leach, a movie that he starred in that I really dug. It’s a small world after all.
3. Flash of Wire – Winged Dolphin Pictures
Emotion: Schadenfreude
Yeah, I had to look it up too. Apparently Schadenfreude means “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.” It would have been nice of them to explain that. If they didn’t want you to know during the movie, at least put it in the credits. Anyway, this one is all about a man who goes to his friendly local Hypnotist/Dream Interpreter/Taxidermist to discuss his recurring nightmares. I love the look of this one. The dream sequences were shot in Naxos, Greece, and the exotic locale lends a lot to the atmosphere of these scenes. Our main actor gives a very unnatural and awkward performance. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that was an artistic choice and not just bad acting. Dr. Thanatopolis is a brilliant character. I would love to see more of him. In fact, just like the DJ in Vol. 1, the good doctor would be perfect as the wraparound story of an anthology. Another winner.
4. Epidemic – Dustin Mills Productions
Emotion: Trust
Is trust really an emotion? Whatever, I’m not gonna get technical about it. Bring on some body horror! Poor Brandon. It seems he’s got that virus that’s going around. You know, the one that makes you puke blood and your skin to meltoff. The voice on the phone is telling him that help is on the way, and he can trust them…right? This one was a lot of fun. Much of the credit goes to Brandon Salkil as, um, Brandon. He’s the only person onscreen for most of the proceedings, and if his performance had been subpar, it would have sunk the whole affair. Luckily, he kills it. He manages to be both sympathetic and comedic. The gross-out physical effects are excellent. I know in the past I’ve gotten on some of the Collective entries for poor sound editing, but this was the exact opposite. The sound was used for dramatic effect better than I see in most major motion pictures. This one was funny, splatterific, and unsettling all at the same time.
5. Death Do Us Part – Liberty or Death Productions
Emotion: Lust
Ok, just for the record, lust is NOT an emotion. But, if I’ll let trust slide, I guess lust can too. Anyway, in Death Do Us Part we follow a paranormal investigator as she ventures alone into a house inhabited by the horny spirit of a groom who lost his bride on their wedding night. Normally, ghost stories are not my thing at all, but this managed to keep my interest. I think using the sepia filter as a way to distinguish between the “real world” and “spirit world” was a great idea. It gave it that “old photograph” feel. Plus, we got our first boobs in a Collective flick, and that’s always a good thing. I didn’t hate a “ghost hunter” movie, and that’s saying something.
6. Myctophobia – Freakwolf Productions
Emotion: Fear
A woman with Myctophobia (fear of the dark) is left home alone when her husband goes away on a business trip. What’s the worst that can happen? This one feels a lot like an EC comics story, which is a template that works phenomenally for short films. A good central performance by Kitsie Duncan anchors the whole thing. It was so good that it almost made me forgive those “why the hell is the camera wobbling for no reason” shots that I hate so much. Almost. There’s a very well done false scare, and the CGI that is used is kept simple, so it is actually effective. The climax takes the film in a completely unexpected direction that I didn’t see coming at all. I like it when a movie can surprise me.
7. Luke 1:71: A Story of Hate – Red Panic Button Films
Emotion: Hate
“That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us.” – Luke 1:71. The boy wonder, Dakota Meyer, is back with his best work yet. We follow a day in the life of Luke, a young man who hates everything and everyone. This is less a narrative than it is a portrait of a character, and it is outstanding. The use of the soundtrack, the locations, the editing, Ben Peck’s powerful performance, and even the way the credits are written all come together perfectly into a true tour de force piece of filmmaking. It doesn’t fit into the horror genre per se’. The horror comes from the fact that we have all known a Luke, and perhaps been a Luke, at some point in our lives. At only 14, Meyer has created the most potent look at the raw nihilism of youth since Kids. Hell, maybe since Romper Stomper. I had professors in film school that would cream their corduroys over this one.
8. Untitled. No, that’s not the title, I mean there’s no title. Now I’m getting confused. You know what I’m saying, right? – Spiral Filmworks
Emotion: Denial
As usual, Spiral Filmworks (aka Jason Hoover) gives us the most unconventional film of the bunch. In this one we are treated to haunting images of a once idyllic looking but now very much abandoned small town as a narrator recounts the tale of a series of grisly murders that occurred there. I’ve said for years that oral storytelling is becoming a lost art, but this was a great example of how it can be done right. The scenery gives the tale that extra little bit of kick to make it really work. A cool change of pace.
9. Another one with no title…kinda – Over Analyzed Productions
Emotion: Envy
There was a moment during this one where it dawned on me that I had a notebook in hand and was jotting down notes for a review of a film by a company called Over Analyzed productions. I suddenly felt like a parody of myself. Well-played guys. Anyway, a whore’s geeky roommate gets way more than she bargained for when she decides to try her hand as a call girl. They set up the characters quickly, simply, and effectively. The tension builds to a complete change of tone at the climax. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it gets wacky. There are some fun moments, along with some truly horrible CGI. I mean HORRIBLE. As it ended, I looked over at Leah and said “That would have been a great start to a longer movie.” Then, low and behold…
10. Bloody Hooker Bang Bang: A Love Story – Cinephreak Productions
Emotion: Rage
…the story continues! Now we follow our heroines of ill repute and their pimp as they fight for their lives. This is one of those over the top “grindhouse” style parodies, and it’s a blast. Unbelievably awesome lines, some hilarious gags, ridiculous characters, and nearly non-stop action are the order of the day. The god-awful CGI continues, along with some pointless shaky-cam, but I was too busy laughing to get mad at these usual deal breakers. I really wish someone would give these guys the budget to make a feature length version of Bloody Hooker Bang Bang. This was damn good. With more time to build the story and some decent practical effects, this could be something great.
Great Moments In Dialog Continuity: Geek tells whore “You left your phone, I answered…” when explaining how she got into her situation. The phone that she answered was a big ass, old school rotary phone. Of course she left it. It’s a landline. Duh.
Overall, Volume 4 is probably the most consistently high quality of all of the Collective presentations to date. The filmmaking is as solid as you’re ever gonna find in an indie shorts collection. At its weakest it’s good. At its best it’s brilliant. I do have one issue however. This is probably my least favorite theme thus far. It’s too broad. A lot of the fun of the first three Collectives was seeing how each group of filmmakers interpreted one statement or object. Here, they each have a different emotion to tackle. The fact that there’s such a wide array of choices means that the unifying factor doesn’t really shine through. While this is definitely my favorite Collective so far, I would like to see them return to a tighter, more cohesive theme in the future.
If you want a good look at the kind of killer work the current crop of indie horror filmmakers have to offer, look no further than The Collective Vol. 4. From gore to grindhouse to ghosts; this collection has something to scratch everyone’s particular macabre itch. I had my doubts as to whether they could maintain the momentum of the first three, and JABB did so with flying colors…particularly red. Vol. 5 is close on the horizon, and I couldn’t be more excited. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.


Anonymous said...

LOVED The Collective Vol. 4!!! Bloody Hooker Bang Bang should be made into a feature length film!!

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