Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flyway Transmission Three: Colin

Tonight I'll be writing about Marc Price's film Colin, and I take great pleasure in doing so, as it was such an unexpected treat. More than a week after our initial viewing of this movie, my wife (who doesn't like zombie films) and I were still talking about it and remembering Colin with warmth and outright fondness, enjoying the novelty of it coming from such a traditionally unlikely place.

I had not heard of Colin before being invited to the Flyway Film Festival's International Zombie Summit, and read just a little about it online before departing. I was intrigued by the poster art, and the film's rumored $70 budget - but mostly by the long overdue concept of telling this type of story from the inside out. You see, Colin is a zombie movie - but it's told from the zombie's point of view. A zombie named Colin.

The best zombie films often make us think about what it means to be Human. Since Romero established the tradition with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, zombie films are often allegories for their time, in that they say something about the current direction in which humanity is traveling. No one has really done this better than Romero, whose subtext is often social and political and speaks of The Big Picture.

But Colin teaches us more about The Big Picture by making us think of what it means to be human in the "little h" sense of the word; the idea of what it means to be a person, an individual, ourselves... It does this by showing what it means to Colin to be Colin.

In the opening moments of this film we watch our protagonist die with no real sense of who he is. He shortly awakens - undead - with even less of a sense of his identity than we have. Colin is reduced to a relentless core of need that is nameless - but that drives him on an obscure journey to reconnect with the phantom limb of his humanity. Along the way, scenes of mayhem unfold, some of which would feel familiar (such as the zombie siege inside the apartment building), but through the uniqueness of their approach come off as being told for the first time - the very freshness of these scenes should cause them to become legendary. However, as intense and enjoyable as these moments are, they often have little to do with Colin's story, which is gradually told through flashbacks both intimate and personal. It's in these qualities that I feel Colin finds its ultimate uniqueness and strength. It's a strength that may alienate Colin from fans of horror culture junk food, but is likely to win new fans (like my wife) who just like good movies, and enjoy a little nutrition when faced with so many empty calories.

In the world of horror cinema (and especially within the zombie sub-genre) it's not often that a film this quiet and unique gets made, and somewhat shocking when it gets noticed. The habitat of the horror film is frequently a crowded landscape of volume and violence, dominated by big-budget gore, homogeneous jump cuts and startling noises, remakes with no heart and no risk (and subsequently, no tension), all shouting through studio-mandated, gold-plated megaphones "LOOK AT ME!!!". But Colin is just the opposite of this: it's modest and quiet and keeps to itself. It's an hypnotic, lingering study in Zombiance that shows though the body may be dead - the soul doesn't go so easily, making it almost more of a ghost story.

Don't get me wrong, there is some pretty nasty gore and loud, shaky scenes of panicky chaos in this film - but while the rest of the world goes on shouting and struggling and fighting around him, Colin himself as a zombie is uninterested in the carnage and spectacle, feeding only out of a distracted necessity. He stumbles about lost, looking for pieces of himself to form a breadcrumb trail - more a victim of amnesia and long-term introspection than a shambling corpse. Along the way, we gradually learn what it is that drives him so - and in the end, something obvious and profound is revealed.

That humanity is always looking for the way home.


P.S. - As a post script to this entry, I must make special mention of its score, written by Daniel Weekes and Jack Elphick (and also written by director Marc Price, pictured left). We were invited to Flyway to premiere a music video from the 400 Lonely Things album Tonight of the Living Dead (see Flyway Transmission One, here). Our music often deals with the personal language of homesickness, and that loss of the sense of belonging that I feel, at our core - hiding beneath the idea of ourselves - we always long to return to. I apologize for the self-promotional nature of these comments and this forum, but I can't shake the feeling that 400 Lonely Things had found kindred spirits in Colin - as this idea of homelessness and homesickness is at the core of Colin's humanity. I also feel that the incredible music in this film did as much to advance this feeling as the writing, acting and directing. I would love to hear more, and I'm honored that we had the chance to share a screen and an audience for a night. Perhaps we'll do it again sometime.

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