Some months ago, I reported on the news that a film made for £45 had gained a national release. And now, and although the mooted theatrical release didn’t quite materialise, Colin is available on DVD in all good stores and lots of shit ones too. Indeed I picked up my copy in my local supermarket, where I was surprised to see it sitting at #22 in the bestsellers charts.
To quickly recap, Colin is a British zombie flick and the brainchild of Marc Price who put the whole shebang together for the retail price of a video game. Of course, the project really cost more than £45 if you factor in all the time, talent and technical know-how that the crew put in free of charge and all the equipment and props that were begged, borrowed or stole. And naturally some more cynical pundits have questioned how far the £45 budget is a convenient marketing gimmick.
However even taking account of everything Marc Price has got for gratis, we are still looking at the smaller end of micro-budget film making. And, as anyone who has watched numerous making of featurettes knows, movie making is a very difficult process, often fraught with problems, even when directors who have all the time and money in the world to throw at the project. Indeed, years of behind-the–scenes action has convinced me that it’s just short of miraculous a lot of films manage to get made at all, never mind actually delivering any quality entertainment.
So if you can make a flick for a tiny amount of cash and a truckload of goodwill, and then get that film such a wide release, Joe Public can pick it up with their weekly groceries, you instantly got my respect! But, as it turns out, Colin’s triumph over micro-budget adversity is really only the least of its achievements, as Marc Price and his dedicated crew have produced one of the most fascinating zombie films in quite some time.
The storyline is fairly straight forward, the eponymous Colin (Alastair Kirton) calls in a friend’s house and is promptly attacked and zombiefied. Then we follow Colin as he begins his new life as one of the walking dead. Effectively what we have here are scenes from the usual zombie apocalypse but with the fresh twist of seeing this world from the zombie’s point of view.
Now this might seem a somewhat slim premise and indeed in the hands of lesser film makers it would be. But Price has managed to create a tale that is by turns eerie, funny, horrific, and surprisingly poignant. He may have made this movie with very basic equipment and a total absence of money, but Colin proves that low budget doesn’t have to mean low concept.
Considering the film’s technical origins, it’s no surprise that there’s a good deal of shaky cam. But the film has a rather pleasing conceit - it becomes shakier and features faster edits when humans are in the scene but when Colin is alone the shots become longer and steadier. Obviously this comes in handy for the big actions scenes where swift editing and jiggling the camera can hide a multitude of budgetary shortcomings, but it does give such scenes an effective atmosphere of panic and an appropriate sense of confusion and disorientation. But the longer, more static scenes contain many very memorable shots, capturing the eerie desolation of the zombie haunted world but also a kind of visual poetry that conveys Colin’s undead mental emotional state. And tonally, the grainy camcorder footage perfectly reflects how the world might be seen through the eyes of the walking dead.
And this is perhaps the most remarkable element of Colin - as well as delivering the usual scenes of revenant mayhem, the film actually makes you think about the humble zombie in a new light. As we follow Colin on his picaresque journey, you suddenly realise that at their core, zombies are actually innocent creatures, acting out of confusion and instinct rather than rage or malice. The combination of cinematography and the excellent haunting score really do evoke the interior life of our dead hero; confusion, frustration and even sadness as what he encounters stirs dormant memories of his former life.
But of course, neither the shots nor music would work so well in this regard if it weren’t for Alastair Kirten’s superb performance. A couple of reviews online have compared his performance to that of Karloff in Frankenstein, and having seen the film I can see why, Kirtin really brings Colin to life, bringing out his character through physical movements alone, and in such a way that you end up really empathising with him.
Naturally in a film with such a small budget, there are planty of rough edges. For example, at times the camera work is perhaps a little too wobbly for its own good, But this only really affects a small proportion of the scenes and generally there aren’t the levels of camera wobble to cause motion sickness in viewers. And also some of the zombies are better acted more than others, but in fairness, I can’t think of any zombie film that doesn’t feature some less than convincing shambling at some point.
On the whole though, Colin is surprisingly good. And as it’s retailing at a modest £6, you really can’t go wrong with this. The DVD is very bare bones but does come with a commentary featuring Price, Kirten and other key members of the team. As well as detailing all the ins and outs of the production, the commentary is highly amusing, with the guys being more than happy to point out mistakes and cock ups, and take the piss out of each other. It’s a very entertaining listen, with the only real downside being references to deleted scenes and a documentary that haven’t actually made it onto the disc annoyingly.
There may have been limited resources for this flick, but Marc Price shows that just because you are shooting on a knackered camcorder, you don’t have to shoot the movie like a drunken uncle at a wedding. And just because you have no money, it doesn’t mean you have to limit your imagination. Indeed, it is the strength of vision, character and mood that makes Colin such a little gem.
JIM MOON, 28th October 2009