Sunday, 22 November 2009

Colin

2008
Dir. Marc Price

Colin is bitten by a zombie. He dies alone on his kitchen floor, only to return from the dead as a zombie. We follow him as he wanders through a bleak suburban landscape in the midst of a cadaverous apocalypse.

Excerpt of dialogue from Dawn of the Dead, 1978:

Francine: ‘What are they doing? Why do they come here?’
Stephen: ‘Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.’

Peter: ‘They don't know why, they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here. They're us, that's all; when there's no more room in hell.’

Amongst the array of provocative ideas explored by Romero in his seminal masterpiece Dawn of the Dead, was how the survivors viewed the masses of the undead attempting to eat them. From their vantage point in the shopping mall they were allowed momentary respite to consider just who and what the zombies were. The conclusion? They are us. Viewing events from this particular angle imbued Romero’s film with a distinct poignancy: his dead are presented as largely sympathetic figures – victims of circumstance and incomprehensible events that have spun out of all control. It is with this very notion that Marc Price has decided to make his mark on the zombie sub-genre. Colin takes a familiar story – a zombie apocalypse - and completely subverts it by showing us the events from the perspective of a recently reanimated corpse: a guy called Colin.

Colin is a genuinely provocative and touching film that has as much brains as it has heart. And I don’t just mean the vast amounts of brains and hearts being eaten onscreen. Whilst it is a thinking man’s zombie film – make no mistake – it still doesn’t skimp on the gore.


The film begins as Colin seeks shelter from the chaos in his house. He tends to a nasty wound on his arm and is attacked by his flatmate. They scuffle in a tiny kitchen before Colin eventually kills his attacker and then dies slowly on the kitchen floor. The immediacy and uncomfortable intimacy of this scene is carried throughout the rest of the film. Whilst society crumbles, we are constantly thrust face-first into it thanks to handheld camerawork, succinct editing and a captivating performance by Alastair Kirton. The fact that the film was shot on a startlingly low budget (£45) proves that filmmakers can still tell a story imaginatively and effectively without all the - arguably unnecessary - trimmings a big budget would provide. This particular apocalypse unfolds in the bleak suburbs and council estates of London, full of high-rise flats and concrete wastelands. The grainy aesthetic of the film actually goes some way to enhance its gritty realism and build the stark, morose atmosphere that becomes quite intense during some of the more action orientated scenes.

As is so often hinted at in zombie films, it is humans who are the ‘real monsters.’ Colin delves into the darker side of human nature - as society falls apart we encounter all manner of desperate characters – dead and alive - including a man who likes to throw people into his zombie infested cellar, a group of thrill-seeking hoodlums and a group of ruthless zombie ‘hunters’. Time and again we are privy to the actions of ‘survivors’ – however it soon becomes clear that these aren’t the actions of rational people simply trying to survive. These are reckless, sadistic thrill-seekers akin to the motley motorcycle crew of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

A touching, bittersweet family reunion also occurs as Colin is reunited with his mother and sister. This provides the film with one of its most interesting, and indeed touching moments. When his sister brings Colin home to their mother, hoping the familiar surroundings will somehow revive him, his mother doesn’t turn in horror – she treats Colin like a wayward youngster – locking him in his room. When Colin bites his sister and she turns into a zombie – the façade of domesticity the family were desperately trying to maintain completely falls apart and the stark realisation that things will never be the same again finally sets in. Locking Colin and his sister in the house, the mother and her son-in-law flee. When Colin and his sister eventually find their way out of the house, they don’t even seem to recognise each other anymore and simply go their separate ways. The moment is sad and hangs heavy with a sense of familial breakdown and loneliness.


At times the story veers off to briefly explore other scenarios and grim situations before finally settling on Colin again as he inadvertently stumbles in and out of the action as he continues on his shuffle-paced odyssey. A flashback towards the end of the film reveals that Colin’s whole journey, as random as it seemed, was actually premeditated. He is definitely going somewhere – he may not always understand why, but something inside him, some sort of primal urge, drives him on. By the end we understand where and why he was going. And the results are really quite heart-breaking.

Despite the majority of the film being dialogue free; it still manages to be a compelling and engrossing experience and a few humorous moments pepper the otherwise sombre narrative - for example when Colin chows down on an unfortunate victims ear, he takes their headphones off to listen to the music in one of the many moments where he appears to experience a vague flutter of recognition of his former life. Alastair Kirton is a quiet revelation as Colin. He conveys a childlike sense of awe and curiosity, instantly making his rapidly decomposing character strangely likable and naïve. Even though we only really begin to explore his character and his ‘motivations’ when he dies, Colin is still a character we care for – he appears lost and bewildered in an increasingly dangerous environment. Even though he is a zombie, he still seems so vulnerable, confused and, well, human – even his first ‘kill’ is strangely touching – filled with awkwardness and hesitancy. When he is confronted by the zombie ‘hunters’ – survivors we may find ourselves rooting for in another film - the dramatic tension is palpable. An interesting and thought provoking dichotomy indeed!


Colin does for zombies what Romero’s Martin did for vampires – it humanises them and shrouds them in a nostalgic and melancholy veil.

A moving story about morality, instinct, family, unconditional love and human nature. With blood. Lots of blood.

2 comments:

chriszombieking said...

really enjoyed your review.. i felt this is one of the most interesting takes on the zombie genre in years. the first time i saw it, i was almost moved to tears by the ending!

chris z.

James said...

Yeah Chris, it is a pretty unique take on a genre that, as much as I adore, has become so stale of late! And that it is moving and poignant was an unexpected plus for me too. :)