The collapse of a good idea.
How often has a brief synopsis of a movie given you the desire to see it? A couple of carefully-constructed sentences with intriguing key words can inspire great hope in the story they represent. Yet how often do the words fail the actual movie? How often does the talent of the marketing department exceed that of the screenwriter? For me, this phenomenon is all too common. Take, for example, the synopsis for The Collapsed, recently released on DVD and VOD.
“In the wake of the end of the world…” How elegant does that sound? It’s almost poetic with the alliteration of “wake” and “world”. The image it paints is grim (the world has ended) but expertly sets up a story: what happens AFTER the world has ended?
“…a family of four desperately tries to survive.” Ah, there are our subjects. Family of four? I immediately think of a mom, dad, son and daughter; a typical family. It has a different configuration, but I grew up in a typical family. I can relate. This movie could be about ME!
“Their goal: escaping the city and traveling to the rural community they once called home.” More specific now. For whatever reason, the cities are to be avoided. I think of Escape from New York. Maybe this movie will have action and adventure.
“The constant threat of a violent death forcing them to stay as far away from civilization as possible…” Oh, so it’s not exactly the end of the world. There’s a continuing threat. What is it? Cannibal mutants? Monstrous creatures? I want to know!
“…they take to the forest, soon to discover the danger posed by other survivors may be the least of their worries.” So, that’s how they’ll get from the city to the country, through the forest. What obstacles will they face there? Other survivors, perhaps, but also something far worse.
“Will they survive? A dark and unpredictable horror/thriller.” And there’s the million dollar question: “Will they survive?” You’ve sold me! I want to see if they can survive. Ooh, and it’s dark and unpredictable. I hate cheery end of the world movies that I can immediately figure out.
Add a half dozen positive blurbs from Fangoria, Rue Morgue and Ain’t it Cool News to the poster art and Time/Warner has my $4.50. But is it worth it? As hinted in the first paragraph, you don’t have to be psychic to predict I’m going to say, “No”. This isn’t the worst case of false advertising that I’ve encountered; nevertheless, it makes The Collapsed a disappointment.
First of all, it’s nothing like the end of the world. All that’s mentioned in the opening narrative is an unexplained “anarchy”. The city looks mostly intact, except for one brief shot of a couple smoking buildings. I’ve seen worse in any number of disaster movies. Although the city does not seem to be inhabited, there’s no indication that the human race has been wiped off the face of the planet.
Next, the family of four may be typical, but the characters are so generic, they’re not even interesting. Even though the male members fare a little better than the female, the son-resenting-father-for-not-being-there angle feels tired. The Collapsed seems to want to add gravity to the story with the family drama, but it should have stuck to the action.
The good thing about this family dynamic is an additional son they’re trying to join in their old “rural community”. Arguing about whether he’s still alive is more compelling than the interaction between the four escapees. It doesn’t help that the acting isn’t that great. Again, the women fare worse than the men, but the father (John Fantasia) is particularly problematic. There are a lot of distracting response shots from him and he speaks with an odd accent. (IMDb doesn’t tell me where he’s from, but I do know how tall he is. 5’11”.)
It’s never explained what the “constant threat of violent death” actually is. I don’t think there is one, although there are hints of something supernatural. What IS all that whispering in the trees? At times, The Collapsed reminds me of the most lame “thriller” ever made: The Happening. Eventually, other survivors are encountered, but with unsatisfying results. We’ve seen the challenge between two groups to determine who’s going to be “alpha” in many other movies, most with more exciting results.
Not to spoil, but there may or may not be a turn of events that causes you to rethink everything that happens before. Unfortunately, this theoretical situation probably has nothing to do with any of the ideas presented in the synopsis of the movie. The Collapsed is filmed well, I suppose; at times it hints at an epic scale. However, the score is a distracting mish-mash of standard horror movie musical styles. It would have served the movie better to pick one and stick with it.
When I discover an unknown gem of a movie, I like to say “you can’t judge a film by its box art”. Unfortunately, it works both ways. In this case, the movie is not as good as the package it comes in. Or the words that describe it. Beware.