The Collective Volume 7 goes a long way in proving Andrew Sarris’ comment about the extinction of the horror film as a serious genre. If James Whale‘s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) represents the art form’s apex, then the latest (and hopefully last) Collective anthology is something close to the nadir.
Indiana indie filmmaker Jason Hoover and his Jabb Pictures have been producing and distributing The Collective for several years. The concept is simple: ten films created by ten different filmmakers with a horror theme. These anthologies have actually produced a few halfway decent entries since the first volume debuted, but predictably, the bad has consistently outweighed the good. Even less surprising is the prevailing diminishing quality and enthusiasm over the span of seven collections. This 2014 entry is a wheezing death bed for a corpse that should have given up the ghost at least two collections ago.
Keys are the theme here, and first up is an entry from 3 O’clock Productions. “Avengement” is co-directed by Jim Dougherty and Laura Noel, both of whom also star. Noel penned the dull, pedestrian screenplay, which begins as here we go yet again misogynistic torture fare, and morphs into spectral revenge. Dougherty is an occasionally competent director, but rarely finds enough inspiration to take risks. More often than not, his work is hampered by a dire need for good writing, which he does not get here. Relief almost comes in the way of woefully campy acting, but it is not enough.
Liberty or Death Productions’ “Chrysalis” is at least wistful enough to be honest about its sense of nostalgia. It clearly pines for the romance of “Dark Shadows.” Director/writer James Mannan is an excellent actor. When tapping into his theatrical background or erudite nature, Mannan is capable of producing challenging work, but his primary weakness also lies in writing and a pubescent, fan-like adulation of horror as a genre. Chrysalis holds true to Mannan’s M.O. Unfortunately, he casts other actors, and Brad Good (as the husband) is no Mannan. Kaylee Spivey Good (as the wife) is barely more adequate. Visual homages abound: the grand guignol soaper “Shadows,” Dracula (1931), Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Nosferatu (1922) constitute a vampire metaphor for energy-draining abusers, but it is thinly fleshed out, and the result is an unmemorable narrative.
Brian Williams chews on his fingers, rubs his face, talks to himself, and smokes a lot of cigarettes to convince us he is not “Sane”. Of course, there is a key and while it is a Mostly Harmless production, it is also an excruciatingly vapid one.
Athena Prychodko should probably get an A for effort on her moniker alone, which is easily the hippest name of any filmmaker in cinema history. Her “Open Me” is a pun on volume seven’s theme. It stylistically imitates silent film, but misses the contextual mark. This Silence In The Dead Of Light production tries hard to convey a sense of fun, but inevitably it is one long, drawn-out joke, though aided considerably by Jason Hoover’s score, which is delightfully all-over-the-place music.
We move uncomfortably from Prychodko style to Klayton Dean banality in Terror Visions’ “63P012,” which overdoses on the profundity of primordial, Aerosmith-styled angst. That means a lot of red and green filters, psychedelic closeups with the type of ghouls seen in far too many redneck haunted attractions, gallons of fake blood, needles, bathtubs, and narcissistic mirrors. It is akin to fingernails meeting chalkboard, but not for any of the reasons the filmmaker has the audacity to imagine.
Quattro Venti Scott’s “176 Days To Freedom” is a tedious, derivative excursion into a macho post-apocalypse that we have seen countless times. It is written and directed by Cameron Scott, who stars from behind a gas mask.
Jason Hoover’s contributions have been wildly uneven, making some of the best and worst throughout the Collective’s oeuvre. “BlueBird” is a stale scraping of the barrel bottom. Hoodies, beer cans, camouflage jackets, and baseball caps are all intact hallmarks of dull, low-grade Hoosier horror. Cameron Scott trades in his gas mask for a bloody ax in this one.
Hoover’s second entry, under the banner of Death Hug Films, finds the filmmaker mimicking his own earlier work, though it’s far less stimulating. Narration is splashed over rolling landscapes. Think Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” married to an unnecessary medium.
Hoover apparently has had difficulty encouraging filmmakers to participate because he delivers a third entry, this time under the banner of Spiral Filmworks. “Notld” is an entirely pointless recut of George Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead.
John Eric Ballinger mercilessly closes what is by now an agonizing ordeal, with yet more narration. Actually, it is a stream of four-letter words hovering over a white trash collage of evil clowns, dilapidated baby dolls, and skulls.
After mostly suffering through this shining example of Indiana independent horror, I think my impending move westward may provide much needed relief.
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