I remember back in 2009 reading about Colin in a UK newspaper and coming away intrigued. After finding success at a number of festivals around the world it became a critical hit at the Cannes Film Festival and found itself being released into UK cinemas with writer/director Marc Price transformed into the poster boy for zero budget film-making almost overnight. Celebrated for the fact that it was reportedly made on the sort of nano-budget that wouldn’t cover the cost of a family trip to the cinema I made a mental note to check it out when the opportunity presented itself.
Fast-forward to 2014 and a couple of days back I announced on Twitter that once a week I intended to ask my followers to recommend a movie for me to review with the first suggestion out the gate the winner. I was aware that this was an idea that could explode in my face if someone decided to maliciously offer up an Uwe Boll movie or something similarly unbearable. But this week some kind soul took mercy and suggested Colin. This was fortuitous for two reasons. 1. I already owned the special edition DVD but hadn’t taken the opportunity to watch it yet. 2. The movie is really good.
What we have here is an existential zombie film. The movie opens with the eponymous character arriving at a friend's house with a bloody hammer clenched in his fist. Outside the sound of gunfire, screaming and explosions fill the air. Clearly this isn’t a typical English afternoon (if you come from a particularly rough area feel free to disagree). It soon becomes apparent that he’s been bitten and to add further injury to insult he is attacked in his kitchen by his best friend who has joined the ranks of the living dead and proceeds to bite our "hero" on the back of the neck before himself suffering an intense cranial battering with the aforementioned hammer. Colin proceeds to pass out and when he awakens he’s a card carrying revenant. So begins a tale that despite being created on a budget most big movies would waste on a pause between takes has been made with a great deal of love for the genre and more than a few smarts.
Colin himself is less a character and more a mirror held up to the rest of society. He shambles from one vignette to the next somehow surviving calamity after calamity and as the camera follows in his shambling footsteps we see the world around him and how different facets of humanity deal with a zombie apocalypse. And it’s mostly grim. Most of the human beings who cross his path are less human than he is despite him being a flesh eating, increasingly decaying wreck. In terms of narrative it’s very episodic but nonetheless gripping once you acclimate yourself to the often languid pace.
I was especially impressed by the performance of Alastair Kirton as Colin. The focal point of the entire movie and with the added burden of having practically no dialogue he is nevertheless a wonderfully somber presence throughout. We've sympathised with zombies before; most notably Bub from Romero's classic Day of the Dead. But I don't recall any movie where one of the undead was the centre of attention for the entire duration. Kirton exudes restraint and delivers a subtle performance without which the movie would have fallen apart within the first five minutes.
Another area where the movie shines is in the music. Assuming we believe that the movie only cost £45 to make (do we believe this?) it’s simply astonishing that Colin comes complete with a wonderful, melancholy, almost post-rock soundtrack that provides the perfect sonic backdrop to the story that unfolds. This movie has been described as moving. Well a lot of the depth of feeling that can be found here is down to the music.
What Colin doesn't deliver in big budget spectacle it more than makes up for by taking one great idea, a cheap camcorder, a laptop and some obvious talent, not to mention the generosity of all the people who worked for nothing, and from those elements forging something that negates entirely the idea that money is a crucial part of making a worthwhile movie. I believe that given the right circumstances and with the right people on board inspiration can blossom in the face of adversity and/or a meager budget. It's alchemical. Turning very little into something with substance. In recent years we've been subjected to a deluge of cheap, straight to DVD zombie movies most of which are the reverse of this theory. In the face of this, gems like Colin become essential viewing for horror fans. If only to remind themselves that there's life in the undead yet.