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Sunday, 9 December 2012

An academic review of Colin (2008 Marc Price)

Colin is a low budget indie film by film tutor Marc Price about a zombie called Colin and his stumbling. Reportedly made on only £57 Colin has a few production issues such as the occasional issue with exposure and white balance but in general it is beautifully shot. It is commendable for making the post outbreak world feel so real on such a small budget, you really feel when watching it that the whole of the town and country has been infected and that is a difficult thing to achieve without too many wides. Even more spectacular than the blocking and shots is the story, one that is emotional, well paced and ultimately uplifting?
The film begins with Colin as a human, an important decision as it means the audience can identify with him a little before he becomes a zombie. The opening is a little overexposed as I have previously said but as a camera user I understand why as the shot moves from a dark doorway to a window, I think despite the exposure its the right shot to use, the tracking around as Colin walks past and the close up on the hammer actually brilliantly set the tone for the whole film as far as pacing, shooting and emotion are concerned. Our hero isn't to be a human for long however, Colin has already been bitten giving him a nasty wound on his arm, again this makes you sympathise as an audience member however the slightly cheesey and low quality blood mix virus thing isn't needed. After a brief but amusing battle with his house mate Colin is tired and dying, we see him worsen, get sicker and sicker until his death.

We all know thats not the end though as Colin turns into a Zombie, his rigor mortis breaking fingers crack as he wakes up from death. As an audience we pretty much see him turn, he is under coats I would imagine this little joke was added to lighten Colin's death and in lew of the money needed to do a visual transformation but we basically watch him change and the audience in a way turn with him. We don't get to see his face for a while, an important decision  it makes the audience question how disfigured he will be after his transformation. The first time we do see his face is in a reflection, as Colin sees his face, curious, staring, we see that he isn't that different.

Colin spends his first night as a zombie comically trying to escape his front room, fooled by a door (a long running joke through the film) the transition between night and day is wickedly used and Alistair Kirton's performance as an angry Colin is perfect as he steps back, slips and inadvertently falls out of a window thus escaping the room. He clearly has know idea where to go as he pops up into frame and looks around him with a brilliantly confused expression, this again gets us to like Colin, who as he has only just become a zombie, isn't very good at being a zombie, he isn't scary or a murderer he doesn't have a clue what he is doing.

The next collection of shots, whilst setting the desolate scene of the world show again that Colin isn't all that viscous, firstly he ponders over a yellow lego piece. There are two possibly significant things about this, the first being a link to childhood and the idea that zombie-nes is a regression in the mind, and secondly that the piece is yellow, a reoccurring colour of importance to Colin in the film. He is then knocked to the ground by survivors before being denied a meal by an angry looking female zombie. When Colin finally does get to eat he doesn't actually kill the man he eats, no Colin's victim has fallen from a roof and is dying as Colin begins to eat. Despite his meal finding and the horrific nature of eating humans the guy Colin gets is already on his way out so we don't feel bad for the guy, its not like Colin hunted him down, so Colin is furthered into the audiences hearts once again.

The next slightly comical section makes the audience question how much of his past life Colin remembers, as he pulls off a guys (a guy that is being eaten by someone else so Colin still isnt a killer) ear to eat and ends up with his headphones and mp3 player. The Unfilmable Life of Terry Gilliam is playing on the headphones and Colin listens happily and even picks the headphones back up after his next meal. Obviously the Colin liking music makes the audience smile, the idea that he enjoys something that isnt eating people or remembers something from before give the audience some sort of hope and satisfaction. So when the batteries die and Colin gets mad it is almost impossible not to sympathise with poor Colin.

Another important factor in the likeability of Colin is how the remaining survivors act towards him, this is shown in the next scene where two survivors are looking for zombies to loot and spot Colin's nice shoes. The idea that thieves steal from zombies is brilliant and the way they pin down Colin seems cruel and brutal. However Colin's sister is around and saves Colin from getting cold feet but unfortunately gets bitten in the process. This is the first bit of true back story we get for Colin, we now know that he has a sister that survived, through her the audience can empathise and see the tragedy of Colin becoming a zombie, even zombies have families!

The soundtrack to this film is absolute brilliant and highlights the desolation and isolation in the next section in which Colin simply wonders around, past survivors and buildings, chasing pigeons and just being a nice zombie in general. One of my favourite shots is a wide of Colin who bumbles across the shot before someone runs past him causing him to walk all the way across the screen again who finally decides he isnt going to catch up and turns again to go the way he was. The final of the cutaway style shots of Colin wondering is of him looking up at a road sign that points two ways, this could signify loads, but with its recurrence later the it mainly serves as a plot device.

Colin stumbles across a house under siege (a Romero reference for sure as the upstairs room in the house has a sign saying George's room) and with a video camera an inset narrative of "my awesome zombie movie" can be and is shown. This nice little section seems to show some nice special effects whilst parodying classic horror with its token black and final escaping female. A female which is clad in yellow! Colin follows her to the next location, a dark creepy cellar of a sadistic psycho who cuts up zombies and takes photos, where does he keep these experiments? The cellar! I like that this section shows that zombies aren't the worst things in an outbreak of the virus, it also gives some real creeps a chance to do the kind of things they have always wanted to and sometimes those people are the real monsters, not Colin. It is funny however that Colin doesn't actually come to the rescue of the girl as she is strangled to death but just wonders past, out of the cellar and back into the wider world. This scene basically just shows that not only is Colin not evil but the bad things he does aren't as bad as the things humans do in context, well some of them.

The next scene is one of the biggest plot points as Colin is kidnapped, at first we don't see who by, this bit is very carefully filmed to make us experience the kidnapping in the same way Colin does, with confusion and terror. An absolutely amazing tracking shot takes us into the bathroom Colin is tied up in and through a blood splattered mirror reveals his captor, his sister. Colin is probably his most angriest in this scene, the sheer emotion of the scene between Colin and his sister whilst she tries to make him remember her is brilliant  personally it made me feel sorry for Linda as she is going to become a zombie but more so it made me feel sorry for Colin as we can clearly see how much he has lost since becoming a zombie. The photographs he carries with him show how much he did once care and the shots of the empty bathroom, dripping tap, dangling shoelace (that Colin was tied up with) are the most cinematic of the film and have a sorrowful feeling of loss about them. We next follow Colin in a Hessian bag all the way to his old home and to his mother, who Linda is convinced he will remember. The viewpoint of Colin is the viewpoint of the audience for this whole section from the bag to the kitchen which through glass Colin can see his family, separated from him. His bangs on the glass as he tries to get to them are clearly because he wants to eat them... but visually it is heartbreaking to see him banging on the window, trying to get to all that he has lost, his family and his humanity. The shot is beautifully framed as it ends with him slowly tapping away at the window his arm framed to hug his mother who stands at the window. Also evident at this point is the boyfriend of his sister who clearly dislikes him and is violent towards him, fair enough Colin did bite his girlfriend but in general we as an audience also dislike him. Colin spends the night brainlessly staring at a tv, a quick comment on society?

Colin is no longer alone, his sister is also a zombie, thrown into the room with him and they are hidden behind newspaper articles taped to the windows by their mother. A nice way of getting across some exposition in a highly emotional scene. One might think they are trapped in the house, however Colin's sister has the brain and motor control Colin lacks and opens the doors for him, letting him stumble down the step and back out in the open. Upsettingly Zombies recognise each other even less than zombies recognise humans and the two go their separate ways.

Our final group of survivors, an aggressive mob like group burst onto scene with an explosive, knocking Colin and his fellow horde of zombies down, the ensuing carnage is a little confusing but bloody for sure. The leader of the gang is clear, a hard, solemn looking man wielding a catapult with razor blade ammo, as the chaos of the battle continues he descends on Colin, pulling out a hammer not dissimilar to the hammer Colin once used. Colin is seemingly killed and the group is left to deal with the clean up of the battle, when asked what to do about the people that have been bitten, the leader harshly but simply replies "deal with it". This dark and gritty group of survivors are largely emotionless or just scared (depending on which group member) and whilst they are not demonised their brutal gang killing of those that have been bitten again goes to show that zombies aren't the only threat. Not to mention THEY KILLED COLIN!

Actually they didn't, I don't know how but Colin managed to survive with a half blown off face, and he travels though picturesque snow to a house and inside that house to a sign, yes that very same road sign at which point the story jumps back in time to when Colin was still a human. He berates the girl and owner of the house Laura for leaving the door open ironically saying "if you leave it open one of those thnigs can get in here". They fight off a zombie that was in the upstairs bathroom together but Laura gets bitten, you see her collect some photo's some of which Colin has in the future, and her ring tone is the very same song Colin was listening too as a zombie on the headphones. It is a little unclear whether this was Colin's girlfriend or just a survivor he came across but the YELLOW wearing Laura signifies a lot of the things Colin has pondered over as a zombie. He emotionally holds her as she dies, as she wakes up and after getting bitten holds her down and kills her. This sequence is brilliantly shot and acted and brings a tear to the eye. As he covers her face with her hair the times switch between zombie and non zombie Colin and we see zombie Colin knelt beside the body of Laura, perhaps that was where he was trying to get to the whole time, who knows but you definitely feel there is a good reason he has come here and that he does remember something. To me that is an uplifting end to Zombie Colin's story and as for living Colin, we see him walk back home and as the camera pans up we see his house mate in the window and the circular narrative of Colin is nicely wrapped up.

Colin is an absolutely brilliant film, it manages to get the audience to empathise with Colin and really experience a day in the life of a zombie. This could be boring and slow but its not, its paced perfectly and given enough of a plot to make it truly interesting not only that but its so cleverly written there is character development in Colin without making him some kind of super zombie. Colin follows many zombie conventions but looks at them from the other side of the coin, analysing what it is like to be a zombie, it is an intelligent and sympathetic look at the monsters we think we know so well. The only thing I personally would like to do differently with my own film is to cut out any sections in which we see the zombie before they are infected, I think it will be more of a challenge to get the audience to identify with the character without seeing him as a relatable human

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