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Ulises [Celluloid 09.23.08] zombies movie review

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Marc Price
Writer: Marc Price
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ulises Silva
Rating: 8.8 out of 10

The Bottom Line: A smart twist on the zombie genre that delivers a compelling story, a great soundtrack, and some amazingly effective gore effects despite a somewhat loose and unfocused plot.

One of the things I’ve loved about working with Quiet Earth is that it’s let me watch some indie zombie movies I never would have heard about otherwise. And while not all of them have been all that memorable (at least not for the right reasons), I’ve seen some real gems, including John Chance’s brilliant The Veil. And then along comes Colin, a movie that promises a twist to the zombie genre: in this film, we see the zombie apocalypse through a zombie’s perspective. For once, we’re not dealing with dopey humans squabbling among themselves over whose escape idea (e.g., the attic, the basement, mixing and mingling with the undead) is better. No, this time, we’re focused on one zombie whose only real dilemma is whether to rip off a guy’s lips or ears first.

Colin, an indie film written, shot, produced, edited, and directed by Marc Price, delivers on its promise of offering us something different. A smart, compelling, and shocking exploration of the other side of the zombie apocalypse equation, the film succeeds in telling its story despite a bare minimum of dialogue and some lapses in narrative focus.

The movie begins ominously enough with the titular character, Colin (Alastair Kirton), stumbling into his home, bloodied hammer in hand. Outside, we hear the muffled but distinct sounds of gunfire and screaming. Inside his house, we see the signs of survival in the making: bottles and glasses haphazardly filled with water, and a newspaper clipping assuring readers that electricity will remain on. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the zombie apocalypse is on, but our hero Colin doesn’t have long to live. Because we see a nasty (and I do mean nasty) bite on his arm, and we all know what that means. Sure enough, Colin dies and goes to that big hardware store in the sky, only to realize it’s been closed down, so he has to go back down to earth and re-animate as a zombie. Poor guy.

Life as a zombie is different for Colin. Used to things like common sense and motor skills, he’s now faced with one daunting task after another—like opening the front door. Alas, after an entire night of clawing at the closed door, he finally stumbles out of a window, and is free to roam the burning suburban landscape. And what a landscape! There are lots of others out there just like him, plus a bunch of running, screaming, panicking people who somehow thought going to buy a carton of milk in the middle of a zombie apocalypse made perfect sense.

As Colin stumbles along, he’s quickly indoctrinated into zombie etiquette; when he passes one fellow zombie feasting on a corpse, he tries to have a bite, but the other zombie growls and snarls. Apparently, zombies have their own version of ‘go find your own bloodied, gutted, tasty corpse, this one’s mine!’. And he does just that when a guy falls out of a window and stupidly manages not to get himself killed. It’s a very interesting moment as Colin approaches his first helpless victim. The scene has all the nuance of a nervous first kiss, because Colin stoops down, hesitates, and then proceeds to chew up the guy’s lips.

And so, having lost his zombie virginity, Colin continues along his seemingly random path of zombie mishap. Along the way, he stumbles across some odd situations, some of them just outright bizarre. In one, a couple of hoodlums decide to risk their lives to mug Colin for his shoes (yes, his shoes). In another, he joins a party of zombies crashing into a house full of young people who planned on surviving the apocalypse by making a documentary out of it. In another, he falls into a basement filled with mutilated zombies; the house’s owner apparently enjoys throwing helpless victims down there for thrills. And he’s witness to a battle between fellow zombies and some thuggish zombie hunters, where the victorious hunters draw straws to select who bludgeons those who were bitten in the battle. It’s a gruesome, savage, and twisted new world where humans have arguably become the real monsters.

But it’s not all random zombie adventure. During the shoe-mugging scene (the one scene that I thought the movie really could have done without), Colin is saved by his sister and her husband. And Colin actually recognizes his sister…as a tasty snack. So he proceeds to bite her. Later in the movie, the grief-stricken sister brings Colin home to his mother, where she hopes the familiar sights will bring him back. It’s a fascinating moment, because the mother treats him like a grounded child (locking him up in a room, silently dropping off a pork chop), not like a zombie who’s taken a bite out of his sister. But when Colin’s sister inevitably turns, there’s no denying it anymore. The mother and her son-in-law leave the house, locking brother and sister zombies up, covering the outside windows with newspaper clippings (one which features everyone’s favorite zombie apocalypse news headline, THE DEAD WALK!). And when Colin and sister zombies mindlessly go on separate paths, the sense of complete familial loss is really driven home.

And as the film reaches its end, we realize that Colin’s journey has actually been that: a premeditated journey. Despite the seeming randomness of his actions, it turns out Colin had one place in mind. And when he gets there, we finally get the back-story for the film’s ominous beginning. It’s a somewhat touching, heart wrenching scene, and it gives Colin a dimension of character we haven’t really seen Bub from Day of the Dead.

Like any movie, Colin has its share of flaws. I think the biggest issue is the loose plot itself, which very easily looses focus. Building an entire story around a silent zombie must have been a very challenging task, so I guess it was inevitable that the story strayed into tangential scenes about life and death in a zombie apocalypse. But some of these scenes have almost nothing to do with Colin himself, and so they take on an almost random, vignette-like feel. For example, shortly after Colin stumbles out into the streets, we’re suddenly in a car with a human survivor, who tries to save a fellow survivor, fails, and then tells the doomed man, “Good luck.” Interesting, but hardly integral to Colin’s story. And when Colin stumbles into that house full of doomed filmmakers, you get the sense that it was just as an excuse for gratuitous gore, because he’s almost nowhere to be seen during the drawn-out massacre.

And while I think Mr. Kirton did a find job as Colin, maybe he did too good a job, because Colin’s emotions seem too human at times. In one scene, Colin appears to actually feel cold, which goes against the age-old notion that zombies aren’t affected by things like the elements. Then again, the ending suggests there really is more to Colin than just an appetite for human flesh, so maybe it’s a moot point. Still, some of the other acting wasn’t bad so much as lacking. In particular, a lot of the victims in this film (and there are LOTS of them) seem awfully blasé about being ripped apart by zombies. You’d think that if your foot was being broken off, or your ear torn off, or your spinal chord ripped out of your living body, it’d be kind of painful. Yet a lot of these actors’ reactions are more, “Ouch, someone’s removing a nasty splinter from my hand,” than “Ouch, my spinal chord is being ripped out, and it hurts a lot more than I originally imagined.”

But Colin’s merits outweigh its flaws. For one, I think it’s amazing that Mr. Price was able to put together this story with a bare minimum of dialogue. The spoken lines in this movie could probably fill up two script pages at most; it’s Colin’s experiences and perceptions that fill in the narrative. And that approach is aided, in part, by a musical soundtrack that is brilliantly matched to the film’s somber, exploratory tone. Part My Bloody Valentine, part Godspeed You Black Emperor, the soundtrack gives the film a very somber, lonely, and even poetic ambiance with its soothing, brooding repetitiveness. As Colin walks the city streets and takes in familiar sights now alien to him, the music helps to relay the sense of overwhelming loss that underscores his journey.

And then, there’s the gore. Despite the film’s low budget, the gore effects seem straight out of a high-budget zombie production, brilliantly improvised and carried out through some crafty make-up and special effects, and a willingness to shock the audience. Some of the effects—a man being broken in half as he’s yanked back through a window, a woman having her spinal chord ripped out—are chillingly effective even if you can tell how they’re doing it. But there’s a very distinct “EEEWWW!” chill factor in play as well. Our first sight of gore—Colin’s bitten arm—is chilling, but it’s even more chilling when Colin tries to disinfect it by pouring liquid drain cleaner on it.

Colin takes a different spin on the zombie genre, and succeeds in telling its tale of loss through a zombie struggling to reconcile the gap between his need for flesh and the trauma of his final living memories. Carried through by some bold filmmaking, some even bolder gore special effects, and a willingness to let its lead zombie’s emotions and explorations do all the narrating, Colin emerges as a real gem in indie filmmaking, zombie genre or not. Because when you can use a speechless, listless, disoriented zombie to explore loss, human relationships, and the downfall of social mores and human decency, then you know you’ve achieved something memorable. For the right reasons.

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Ivan (13 years ago) Reply

There is a similar movie from the 90s about a guy who becomes a zombie. Its name is I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain


trogen (13 years ago) Reply

is this a low budget creation?


quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

I'd love to tell you but unfortunately it's not my place...


Parkingtigers (13 years ago) Reply

Trogen, this is a VERY low budget film. I do recommend it anyway though, it is one of the most intelligent zombie films I have ever seen. Once you get past the cheap production values the story really takes hold. I'd really like to see it again, there is a lot going on under the surface in this film.


perkin2000 (13 years ago) Reply

Sounds cool. I tried something similar myself a year or two back, but had to cut it short due to the running time restrictions in the competition I submitted the final cut to. Have a peek if you're bored enough:


Ben Austwick (13 years ago) Reply

Low budget is an understatement! $70!


Anonymous (13 years ago) Reply

Not really $70, people donated time, makeup artist expertise etc. That was just what HE paid. He had professional hollywood makeup artists that worked for free on it.


Hex (12 years ago) Reply

Not hollywood make-up artists, this was a british film, but professionals. People mainly worked from free, and a lot of the money was spent buying tea and biscuit for the cast and crew on filming days. The most expensive item bout was a crowbar.-v(Met the director at a screening and Q&A session in Swansea.)

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