Not unlike Panic in Year Zero (1962), Ray Milland’s take on suburban paranoia transplanted to an isolated mountain location after a major city is struck by a nuclear bomb, Justin McConnell exploits very similar fears in The Collapsed as a family bolts into the countryside and hope to insulate themselves from whatever’s turned citizens into flesh-eating murderers.
The main aggressor may be a virus or some unknown behavioral threat, but as the family strategizes where they’ll find an ideal sanctuary to wait out, if not eke out a living far away from civilization, things swerve into more supernatural realms as McConnell and co-producer Kevin Hutchinson introduce an unseen ‘woodsy’ presence, evoking more than a bit of Sam Raimi’s malevolent invisible demon in Evil Dead (1982) before the hero is literally tied down and has the real source of the bloody killings explained to her / him (and audiences).
That reveal is probably the key reason the film divided viewers, and from a structural stance, it comes too late; the film’s midsection is filled with ongoing forest excursions where the director introduces hints of the unseen force that’s deliberately possessing and compelling its host to kill, blurring their perception of reality, and implanting in their memory banks a wholly different version of traumatic events.
Part of the problem stems from the film’s low budget which seemed to mandate striking scenes that would’ve expanded already tense sequences. The father & son’s return to an abandoned gas station to get food is never shown, and it’s a classic action sequence that would’ve boosted the film’s tension in its first act, even if done with just a handful of shots and dim lighting.
The characters are fairly one-dimensional, with the mother and daughter often speaking perfunctory dialogue that (ideally) may have been designed to fuzz any portents of the twist ending, but their scenes often just fill in basic connective scenes about survival, missing prior lives in the city, and pondering what will come next. When the forest scenes revolve around the remaining two main characters, the film finds its core, but the momentum is sometimes disrupted by too many shots of foliage that feel like distraction material because the film’s running time needs to hit the 80 minute mark with credits.
The Collapsed is an intriguing misfire with great use of locations and short and effective spurts of gore, and Pasha Patriki’s Red cinematography is really attractive. Another plus is the realistic handling of firearms in the film (largely due to McConnell’s own familiarity) which enhance the characters’ paranoia, and specific sequences where the father is evading a stalker and engaged in combat. As he recounts with co-producer Hutchinson in the making-of featurette and audio commentary, McConnell managed to work a number of miracles in getting the film made, and the track alone offers some inspirational anecdotes and thoughts about maximizing minimal resources to get a calling card film done. (The pair’s prior work includes music videos and shorts, but this is the first of their feature-length projects.)
Rob Kleiner’s score (which is isolated in a separate music gallery) mostly works when it’s not being heavily repetitive, but there are a few spots where it tends to be overwrought, pitching a level of melodrama that almost turns a scene’s tragedy into bathos (such as a family burial scene).
Anchor Bay’s DVD is loaded with extras, and includes a second commentary track by actor Fantasia, plus assorted interviews and a feature-length, making-of featurette that covers a bit too much daily minutia, but provides a plethora of material on the unique locations (including the short bit at Toronto’s Lower Bay Station).
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan