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Monday, May 21, 2012

THE COLLAPSED -- DVD review by porfle

The making-of featurette is called "Apocalypse on a Budget", and you'll get the idea when all of civilization falls apart during the main titles--via a brief newsclip montage of rioting in the streets--and we join the Weaver family's struggle to survive already in progress.  There have been so many end-of-the-world thrillers by now that we don't need any more exposition or explanation than that.  All we need is a new and creative variation on the premise, which THE COLLAPSED (2011) manages to provide very well despite that modest budget.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes, you might think you're watching a loose remake of Ray Milland's minor classic PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962).  There's Mom and Dad and Bro and Sis, making their way into the sticks to escape the chaos of a fallen city and facing their own descent into savagery as they're forced to defend themselves against ruthless marauders. 

Again, dear old Dad steps up to his new responsibilities with a hardness that surprises the others.  This time, though, Mom and Sis aren't such weepy, whiny pacifists, and Bro is the one who tends to get a tad angsty and existential about the whole thing.  Still, there's a familiarity to their flight from gun-toting bad guys and subsequent cross-country trudge to a small community where another son is hoped to have survived. 

But just when we think we have the rest of the story pretty well figured out, THE COLLAPSED pulls the rug out from under us with a plot twist that's shockingly unexpected, leaving PANIC IN YEAR ZERO behind and taking us down a path where we don't know what the hell's going to happen next. 

Add to this the fact that during their entire trek, an unseen and seemingly demonic presence has been following them every step of the way.  As each family member senses it with some growing, fundamental dread, we begin to wonder just what really happened in lieu of the usual zombies, nuclear war, or natural disaster to bring the world to its current state. 

This mysterious supernatural element is the kicker that sends THE COLLAPSED from its cozy "I know what's gonna happen next" comfort-viewing status into the realm of the really weird, making it one of the most suspenseful and surprising of the recent indy post-apocalyptic thrillers. 

It's a good example of how some enthusiastic filmmakers with a little imagination can transcend things like unpolished acting (although the cast acquit themselves well), limited settings (most of the story takes place in the woods), and an almost total lack of SPFX save for some early shots of the ruined city and some minor gore effects here and there.  The story is straightforward and simple but the places it goes will keep you guessing right up until a final revelation that scores high enough on the "WTF?" meter to place it smack dab in the middle of the Twilight Zone.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 sound.  Subtitles are in English (and whoever wrote them had a field day describing that mysterious supernatural presence).  Extras include one commentary track with writer-producer-director Justin McConnell and co-producer Kevin Hutchinson, and another with actor John Fantasia ("Dad" Weaver).

There's also a music video for the end-titles song "Devil in Disguise" by Rob Kleiner, trailers, a photo gallery, cast and crew bios, and a weblink to unlock the "Apocalypse on a Budget" making-of documentary.  Kleiner's entire musical score is available as a free MP3 download but you can also listen to it in its entirety here, uninterrupted, essentially making the DVD a soundtrack CD. 

THE COLLAPSED currently enjoys an IMDb score of 2.9 out of 10 (from 110 votes), so, needless to say, my mileage varied.  I found it as entertaining as one of those little TV-movies on "The ABC Movie of the Week" back in the 70s--like BAD RONALD or DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK--that would strike a chord with viewers and become a cult favorite over the years.

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