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Colin 2009

In these days of spiralling budgets and ridiculous special effects coming together to produce films which are often much less than the sum of their parts, it’s good to find out about a production making the headlines for exactly the opposite reasons. Colin, the zombie brainchild of director Marc Price, has become a cause celebre recently amongst the national newspapers because of its tiny budget. Did I say tiny? I meant miniscule. Did I say miniscule? I meant… a word that describes something much smaller than “miniscule”.

Colin’s budget was ridiculous – a reported £45, which simply can’t be entirely accurate. Marc reckons that all he bought during the film’s lengthy gestation period was a packet on biscuits and a crowbar – everything else was begged or borrowed – old cameras were used to film it, people worked for free, blood and special effects were concocted in his mum’s kitchen, guerrilla film-making tactics were used to film in locations they probably weren’t supposed to be in.

The usual result of such a cottage industry approach is there for all to see on screen – a shoddy mess of a thing, with bad performances, rotten effects and a “we made it up as we want along” script. But these are usually films which cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, more than Colin. So in a way, you come to it prepared to cut it a fair amount of slack. So what if there’s a boom mike visible at the top of the screen? Who cares if the lead stumbled over their lines, or an extra wandered in during a big speech, saw they were filming and backed away again? You’re happy to ignore these little things, cos the entire film cost less to make than a pair of cheap shoes.

However, if you’re expecting a charmingly shoddy production, you’re going to be disappointed. There are no boom mikes in shot, no awkward silences, no unintentional laughs. It is quite simply unbelievable that what you sit and watch cost so little.

Colin shares a certain amount of its look and feel with the much-lauded-but-now-in-danger-of-being-somewhat-over-exposed-on-digital-telly “zombie rom com” Shaun Of The Dead, as Britain wakes up to find out it has been taken over by a bunch of shuffling cadavers seemingly straight from Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. But that’s about it for the Shaun comparisons, because whereas the bigger budgeted film was a perfectly pitched blend of laughs and chills, the lighter moments in Colin are few and far between. In fact, the only one comes right at the very beginning, when the titular hero is attacked in his kitchen by one of the undead, and tries to beat it off with a wooden spoon, which immediately snaps. That’s it. In a way, it almost wrong-foots you, because on seeing this your mind immediately thinks “recognisable suburban setting, dead bloke with sharp teeth, hopeless hero, comedy implement – it’s a comedy, a-la that thing with that bloke out of Spaced in it! Hurrah!”

But it isn’t. Despite succeeding in stabbing his assailant to double death, Colin realises he now has another bite to add to the nasty gash he has already showed us in his forearm – and as we all know, that means the writing is on the wall. The next minute he’s dead, then he’s up again, complete with puzzled look on his ashen face.

"It’s an intelligent, troubling and moving film which genuinely takes the genre and shoves it on a bit."

He makes his way out onto the London streets, and the rest of the film follows him as he gets used to his new life. But before you switch off, thinking this is some kind of touchy-feely “it’s a hard life being undead” character study, think again. Yes, our Colin is a sympathetic character in as much as there may be a spark of humanity resting somewhere behind those dead eyes, but this isn’t a film about him as much as about the things he sees on his travels – half-eaten humans watching in helpless agony as they are eaten alive, teenage gangs ignoring the dangers and attacking these new easy to mug targets, families torn in two, people setting up doomed projects to make money from the disaster… even dodgy men using undead women for some decidedly unsavoury activities.

These little vignettes play out as Colin shuffles from place to place, finding out what he must eat to survive and how he must act to get it. On the way we learn more about our hero, who simply wandered onto the screen at the beginning clutching a bloody (as in caked in blood) hammer. How did he get the gash on his arm? Who is that blonde girl who seems intent on saving him? Is he beyond salvation, or can these supposedly mindless creatures remember what it was like to be alive, and re-learn what it is to be human?

As you can probably tell, Colin isn’t just some ham-fisted attempt to remake Dawn Of The Dead on a budget (and believe me, I’ve seen a few of them) – it’s an intelligent, troubling and moving film which genuinely takes the genre and shoves it on a bit.

It’s also nicely made – sometimes to an amazing degree.

Scenes are linked with arty close-ups of flickering lights, for much of the film there is no dialogue, the soundtrack punctuated by distant car alarms and gunfire (apparently created by Marc wandering outside on bonfire night to tape some fireworks – it works brilliantly). And if you’re thinking there won’t be any effects in such a cheap film, you’d be wrong – there’s plenty of horribly realistic gore for those so inclined. Even more astonishingly, there are at least three set-piece zombie attack scenes which wouldn’t look out of place in a film like 28 Days Later. Yes, it really is that good.

Because of its episodic nature, the film never outstays its welcome, and it also means that Marc and his willing army of pretend zombies have the opportunity to experiment a bit. Scenes that stick in the mind long after the film has finished include some cellar-bound zombie sexpots with their eyes gouged out, a student party with some hungry gatecrashers, and, on a quieter note, a simply superb scene which explains the current situation on the streets of London cheaply and effectively as someone uses old newspapers with lurid headlines to cover up the windows of their house.

For anyone who has an interest in horror as a genre, film making on a budget or simply a love of good cinema, it’s a must-see. But take a hanky, cos the ending could have you in tears.

The only other thing I must add is I cannot wait to see what Mr Price can do with a decent budget… say, £450 next time?

Director and Writer - Marc Price
Cast: Alastair Kirton - Colin; Daisy Aitkens - Linda - Colin's Sister; Kate Alderman - False Laura; Leanne Pammen - Laura; Tat Whalley - Marlen - Linda's Friend; Kerry Owen - Colin's Mother; Leigh Crocombe - Damien; Justin Mitchell-Davey - Slingshot Guy; Dan Weekes - Bitten Guy; Dominic Burgess - House Siege - Pots; Rami Hilmi - Harry; Simba Ngei - House Siege - Umbrella; Clare-Louise English - House Siege; Mari-Claire Turley - House Siege - Powerdrill; Sarah Strong - House Siege - Block

Last updated: July 8, 2010

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