Is £45 horror film 'Colin' actually any good?

Nigel Floyd talks with zombie-film director Marc Price, about the hype surrounding his debut feature.

When Welsh filmmaker Marc Price’s no-budget horror movie ‘Colin’ was screened as part of a zombie all-nighter at Sci-Fi London’s Oktoberfest in 2008, he had no idea that it would later find itself at the centre of a media maelstrom.

He wrote the script while answering phones on the late shift at a Soho courier firm; shot it using an antiquated camcorder that broke down part way through (to be replaced by an even older model); and edited it on his laptop using outdated software. The digital tapes were given to him by a film runner friend, who had been told to dump them; the zombie actors were recruited through Facebook and MySpace; and the make-up effects were created by professionals who worked on the film for the love of it. Speaking to Price about the film’s curious production and publicity history, it’s easy to see how he managed to infect his collaborators with his enthusiasm. And it takes a lot of enthusiasm to make a 98-minute feature film for an alleged £45.

But how accurate is that attention-grabbing headline figure? And why is the mainstream media suddenly all over ‘Colin’ like a cheap suit, when few, if any, of those writing about the film will have had an opportunity to see it? The film’s supposed budget of £45 was first mentioned in a CNN online report published on May 26th. In that article, Tom Foster described how ‘thrifty director’ Price had cobbled ‘Colin’ together for, ‘less than the cost of a zombie DVD box set.’ It was this piece that was the initial catalyst for press interest in the film.

The danger now is that the truth about ‘Colin’ risks being lost in a miasma of ill-informed hype. Nerdy horror fans are particularly sensitive to the inaccuracies found in generalist articles, but the film’s UK distributors, Kaleidoscope Film, and their PR company Organic Marketing, must be thrilled that journalists are so happy to do their work for them. Price understands my scepticism about the eye-catching figure of £45, and is acutely conscious that the emphasis on this ‘silly season’ back story could backfire. His original publicity hook for the film, which grew organically out of the material, was that this was, ‘the first zombie film from a zombie’s point of view.’ But then he found out about British director Andrew Parkinson’s 1998 documentary-style film, ‘I, Zombie’, which also chronicled its male protagonist’s degeneration into a flesh-eating zombie.

To be fair, ‘Colin’ is a better and very different film, one that emphasises its protagonist’s vestigial humanity. At one point, Colin shambles on autopilot back to his family home, where his distressed sister tries to spark a flicker of recognition with some family photos. Humanity, not budgetary constraints is what was foremost in Price’s mind: ‘Even if I’d had more money, it would still have been about trying to invest the story with that same level of humanity and emotion.’

That said, the film’s unusual ‘making of’ story remains its unique selling point. Low-budget zombie movies are ten-a-penny these days, so despite a relatively original storyline, the film’s inevitable technical shortcomings may alienate potential cross-over audiences. Horror fans are used to scuzzy shaky-cam, ugly lighting and dodgy acting, but there’s only so much that can be disguised by imaginative, post-synchronised sound design. One admires the passionate spirit of its making, but ultimately ‘Colin’ feels like what it is, a promising feature-length home movie.

Price insists, however, that during the long months of snatched filming, mostly at weekends, he really did spend the absolute minimum. One embarrassing purchase was a pack of digital tapes, because he’d used up the ones he’d brought with him, and the other gratis ones were back at his house. Otherwise, it was just cheap coffee and snacks for the minimal volunteer crew and the unpaid actors.

So, for all my wise-guy scepticism, as a die-hard horror fan I want to believe the passionate Price when he says: ‘With “Colin”, it was never about the money. I just wanted to make a zombie film that horror fans could really get their teeth into. What I’m worried about now is that “Colin” is very much a niche movie aimed at zombie fans. So that £45 figure was a way of lowering their expectations. We just wanted to be honest about how cheap the film was, so people would be in the right head space when they were going in to watch it. That way, they might stick with it and enjoy it.”



Author: Nigel Floyd





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