"We bought a crowbar and a couple of tapes, and I think we got some tea and coffee as well -- not the expensive stuff either, the very basic kind," explained British filmmaker Mark Price in an interview I read on CNN.com last May, when Colin premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. His claim was unbelievable and cheeky - in fact unbelievably cheeky, considering budgets on numerous Hollywood films each year extend into the hundreds of millions of dollars (the recent disaster movie 2012 had a price tag of $260 million). So alhough I'm not a big zombie guy, when Colin popped up on the schedule at the recent Flyway Film Festival, well I just had to see how this played out.
The film opens with Colin, a young Londoner, looking out of a kitchen window in what appears to be the late afternoon. The sounds of sirens, screams, and gunshots filter through the windows and walls, informing us that something is very wrong outside. Eventually we realize Colin is taking shelter here, nursing a seriously nasty wound (cue first impressive low-budget effect, seen in the trailer below) suffered in what must have been a horrifying zombie attack. He soon becomes a zombie himself, thirsty for blood as he wanders the streets while still harboring what appears to be some semblance of human consciousness.
Much of the praise lauded on Colin, aside from its production value, is that it is apparently one of the only zombie movies to tell a story from the zombie's point of view. Zombie movie fans are a passionate group, you should know (Colin played at the festival as part of the International Zombie Summit), leading to taglines like this one from FHM, which I don't think is meant to be as tongue-in-cheek as it sounds: "The most touching film you will see about a decomposing corpse all year."
Do not be confused - Colin is much more of a serious drama than a horror comedy in the style of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland (which I haven't seen). Mark Price attempts to inject real emotion into this story as Colin's sister tries to rehabilitate him from his lonely bloodlust, but engaging me emotionally about zombies is about as difficult as engaging me emotionally about aliens or talking animals. On the other hand, maybe some zombie fans really do care about the pathos of the undead, and maybe that FHM quote really speaks to them.
And what of that $70 budget? Having recently "starred" in a horror short for a friend of mine, I have to admit that the effects and makeup in Colin really are on the level of a professional production. Beyond that I was also impressed by the realism in the exterior and street shots. I don't know if this was shot guerrilla-style without notifying anybody or if it was all shot at odd hours, but you really do get the sense of London as a ghost town. Unfortunately for Mark Price's achievements with this, however, the cinematography can only be described as obnoxiously bad, with the camera being vigorously shaken in a constant effort to convey chaos. It's distracting and annoying and doesn't really fit at all with the snail's pace of the film.
But take my thoughts for what they're worth from somebody who knows and cares little about zombie movies. Despite Price's best efforts to stretch his budget, it was still quite evident to me in every scene of Colin that it was made for $70. But this was an accidental hit, we should remember, and no matter how you look at it Colin is still an interesting experiment that, along with Paranormal Activity, is a likely portent of things to come in the film world.
Colin screened at the 2009 Flyway Film Festival and recently played in theaters across the UK. It is available there on DVD and may be making its way into American markets and Netflix soon.