If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know all about The Collective by now. For you late comers, allow me to introduce you to horror cinema’s best kept secret and the most innovative concept in independent fright fare today. The Collective is the brainchild of Jason Hoover of Jabb Pictures. Take 10 indie horror filmmakers and give them a theme. They each make a 10 minute short based on that theme. Put them all together and voila; you get the indie horror sampler platter. We’re five installments in, and all five have delivered. In addition to being entertained by the collections themselves, they’ve served as an introduction to filmmakers whose other work I’ve enjoyed. You can’t go wrong with these. If you call yourself an independent horror fan and you haven’t been keeping up with The Collective, you’re doing it wrong.
Which brings us to the recently released Volume 6. This time, it’s personal. Yeah, I couldn’t help throwing that line in. Whereas previous themes have involved things like each short being based on an emotion or having to use a cardboard box as the centerpiece, this time the horror comes from within. Each filmmaker based their segment on what scares them the most. What scares the people that scare us? It’s a hell of a question, and it has the potential to produce some intense cinematic experiences. It actually turned out to be one of the strongest, and definitely the darkest, of the Collective series. Let’s break these down one by one…
1.Consequence Pictures – Speeches
We kick this collection off with the story of a man wrestling with guilt over the death of his girlfriend while being forced into his own personal hell of making speeches about drunk driving. This one has some really cool eerie imagery and interesting editing. One character’s creatively foul-mouthed verbiage adds a little levity to the proceedings; my favorite line being “You better put your big boy ballsack on this time.” Great line. I’m gonna start using that one. I’ve said very often that it’s the little details that can ruin a good film or push it over the edge from good to great. In this case, I was mightily impressed by one small detail; their blood. I mean, that was great blood! Good color, it flowed beautifully, the whole nine yards. Good quality blood is, sadly, not something you see often in these DIY flicks. I don’t know if they made it or bought it, but it was a thing of beauty. The only thing I question is watching the whole thing again in fast-forward again at the end. I get what they were going for, but I don’t think it worked as well as they'd hoped. Overall, a strong way to start.
2.Jarrett Furst – Edible Love
A woman’s horrific past leads her to drastic places in the quest to feel loved. This one is pretty intense. ***SPOILER ALERT*** It’s psychosexual take on cannibalism is actually believable, and it treats the theme seriously and thoughtfully. I’m a sucker for a good thinking man’s cannibal flick. ***END SPOILER ALERT*** The rape scene is perfect. Yeah, I know, that sounds sick, but hear me out. It’s one of the grittiest rape scenes I’ve ever seen, and it has the appropriate impact on the audience. It feels dirty and degrading. If you want your audience to actually be affected, that’s the way you do it. The only problem is the audio. The main actress spends a lot of time talking to the camera. She’s giving a good performance and saying some pretty interesting stuff… I think. She’s impossible to understand most of the time. Her voice is way too low and garbled. It’s a damn shame too, because what I could hear seemed well written. It does get a little better as the film progresses, but this short is WAY too good to sound this damn bad. Unfortunately, the audio problems kick Edible Love down from “That was amazing,” to “That was good, but…”
3.Mostly Harmless Pictures – Play Me
A woman receives a mysterious DVD shortly before being attacked. This one straight up rocked. Most of it is an extended kill scene, and you need a great victim to make that work. Ellie Church is a great victim. She pulls off “terrified eyes” well. “Ironic pretty song over scenes of violence” is getting a little played out, but it works here. There’s some inventive camera work. One little touch at the end (which I’m not gonna give away) literally had me applauding right there on the couch. I’m not sure how to review this any further without spoiling everything, so I think I’m just gonna do my best Joe Bob Briggs impression and give you those drive-in totals…"One dead body. Two almost visible breasts. One tattoo I wanted a better look at. Gun gagging. Subliminal creepy dude. Genital mutilation. Pistol whipping. Bondage fu. Cheese grater fu. Eyeballs roll. Director Brian Williams gets the “Rob Zombie Award” for achievement in long, loving close-ups of his lead actress’ ass. A 90 on the vomit meter. Four stars. Check it out."
4.Jerami Cruise – Insomniac
An insomniac roams the city at night, giving in to the urges that plague her sleep-deprived mind. I could tell right away that this had to be made by someone who was intimately familiar with the subject matter, because this is as authentic as it gets. As an insomniac who used to roam the streets of Atlanta in the wee hours, this short felt like a flashback. Everything from the way the camera moves to the filters he used mimics the way you view the world on the 4th or 5th day without sleep. Leah and I had different ideas about what the filmmaker’s driving fear was, and I like how that ambiguity allows for different levels of interpretation based on the viewer’s experience with the subject. This one went deep in a lot of ways. Toetag’s resident goremeister has crafted something special here.
5.Jabb Pictures – I Am No One
A filmmaker documents the life of a serial killer, but is he getting too close? If you mixed the mechanics of Man Bites Dog with the atmosphere of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the result would be I Am No One. I don’t know who the actor that plays Charles is (we’re never told since it’s documentary style), but damn he’s good in this. His monologues are well written, and his delivery is natural and sometimes rather chilling. There’s a well-played tension to the final moments. One of, if not the, high point of this volume. Jason Hoover, the director, informed me that a feature length version of I Am No One is coming soon. I, for one, can’t wait to see it.
6.Quattro Venti Scott – Security Violation
A man is killed by a masked duo. This one is another extended death sequence. The masks that the killers wear are phenomenal. I want to know where I can get those. Cameron Scott, the director, plays the victim and does a damn fine job. Playing dead is one of those arts that most people don’t notice when it’s done well. That’s how you know it’s being done well, and Cameron kills it. His dead eyed look is dead on. Ok, I’ll stop. Anyway, the plastic over his face doesn’t even flutter. Directing from onscreen is difficult, but when you have to do it as a corpse, it can be murder. Kudos. There are some satisfying gory touches. I like a lot of the angles used, but a few of them showed a little too much air between the blows and the victim. That wouldn’t have been a problem, however, had the male killer been more aggressive. Those half swings just weren’t convincing me. Beat him like you mean it, dude!
7.Spiral Filmworks – Devotion
A sermon… and a sacrifice. Two actors, a static camera, and the most screwed-up rendition of Amazing Grace I’ve ever heard. I like how the scene is allowed to play out organically while the audience plays the role of both congregation and voyeur. The way one character menaces the other, as well as the real time single set/no cuts/no camera movement format, made this one remind me a lot of some haunted house scenes I’ve performed over the years. I hear you Jason, religious zealotry kinda freaks me out too.
8.Well Hung Pictures – Trepidation
I like that it was made to look like a SOV flick. I have a soft spot for those. There are a couple of good lines too. Unfortunately, however, this short is Vol. 6’s weak link. Look, I dig a slow burn, but a slow burn only works on the premise that there will be a payoff. Aside from a one second shot in the middle that gives this a somewhat implied ending, nothing scary happened. Nothing creepy happened. Nothing unsettling happened. Nothing happened at all. I’m sure there is a statement here about the banality of little fears or “nothing to fear but fear itself,” or maybe something is supposed to be read into that one shot that I’m not getting, but this one just didn’t do it for me.
9.Liberty or Death Productions – Mercy
A filmmaker is abducted and held underground for ransom. I really dug the creative use of split-screen in the opening moments. I don’t think I’ve seen it done exactly that way before. Justin Forbes does a great job as the thug. I’m not claustrophobic at all, but that hole freaked me out a little. It’s completely plausible as something a small time criminal might plan and build. That’s just plain old good production design. This is LOD’s best short since Fertility 2.0 in Volume 2. I refer to this one by an alternate title; “Buried Alive By Fred Durst.” You’ll get it when you see it.
10.Graphik 13 – Skeleton
An avenging skeleton is a girl’s best friend. I kinda took Graphik 13 to task for what I thought was a weak entry in the last Collective, and they came back with a vengeance. This is by far the best stuff we’ve seen from them, and that’s coming from someone who loved Snapcase. The moody black and white photography emphasizes the creepiness. I like the way the victim/villain dichotomy plays out. Two minutes in you know where the story is going. That could either be a good or bad thing. Familiar can be fun, but predictable sucks. There’s a very subtle difference between the two, and G13 deftly manages to keep the viewer invested. The design of the skeleton itself, a classic Grim Reaper style hooded skull look, works perfectly with the dark fairy tale elements of the story. Interestingly, it’s also the only one that took a supernatural approach to the theme. I would have liked to see less digital filters and transitions, but that’s just a personal taste thing. Good stuff.
I find it very interesting that almost every single one of these revolves around interpersonal violence, neglect, or abuse in some way. It seems that when you ask people who spend their lives scaring you what scares them, the answer is almost always the same; mankind. Whether the fear is of yourself or other people, the darkness inherent in humanity is what freaks them out. There’s some kind of profound statement to be made there, but I’ll save the philosophical discussions for another time.
What I will say is that Volume Six is Jabb and the Collective crew at their finest. Volume 4 is still my favorite, but this is a very close second. If I had to pick a favorite from this crop, it would be a tough call between I Am No One, Insomniac, and Play Me. Besides Trepidation, which I’m sure some of you would dig (especially the VHSphiles), everything here is firing on all cylinders. It goes without saying that pretty much every horror fan with a brain is sick of the gutless, soulless, brainless, heartless, nutless drivel Hollywood is trying to pass off to us these days. There is a remedy, folks. There is good stuff out there. If you wanna see it, and peek into what I sincerely hope is the future of the genre, you’re gonna have to dig a little deeper. Look to the indies. Look to the underground. Look to The Collective. 9 hammer smashed heads out of 10. Nathan says check it out.