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Movie Review: The Collective
Shots like these help to keep The Collective afloat. Photo courtesy The Collective Film Group.
How come people in movies don't just call the police? Seriously. The police exist in this world specifically for occasions when bad people are trying to do bad stuff to you. CALL THEM. What if a character in a movie needed a pizza? NEEDED it. Like, if they didn't get this fucking pizza, they were going to die. Would it be reasonable to assume that instead of calling Domino's or Pizza Hut or any one of 1,000 local slice joints, the hero or heroine would instead embark on a city-wide frantic manhunt for the correct sauce, cheeses, dough, and toppings, all while evading those pizza-haters intent on their demise? No. It probably wouldn't be reasonable to assume that such a scenario would occur, without groans and grumbles from the audience. So why do we put ourselves through the hassle, why do we let ourselves get sucked into convoluted twists and sub-plot after sub-plot when the solution to all the problems is just a phone call away? Probably, because getting there is more than half the fun.
Look at the Bourne franchise. A guy wakes up, he doesn't know. He tries to find out. Kablamo, there's your story. Pitch it, sell it, and walk away a millionaire. Or maybe watching Bourne take a guy off a moving motorcycle with a rolled-up newspaper is the really interesting part, and the rest just gets you there. Well then, the problem becomes: making the 'there', the chase for the toppings, cool enough that the the rest doesn't need to matter much at all.
This is the unfortunate downside to many independent films; the parts that are supposed to carry us may not be strong enough to do so, leaving the weaker moments to take on more of the load. With The Collective, this seems to be the case, which is unfortunate considering how well the film is shot.
The Collective is a small-budget NYC-based film about out one girl's quest for her sister, after a cryptic voicemail sends her scrambling to help. Unfortunately for Tyler (the ravishing Kelly Overton), when she arrives in the Big Apple her sister Jessica is nowhere to be found. After circling a few leads and seemingly trusting everyone waaaaay too much, Tyler begins to understand that her sister has fallen in with a cultish group that, not surprisingly, calls themselves The Collective and have taken over a old church. The group isn't that hard to find, and even easier to infiltrate (just ask the janitor), so when Tyler shows up they freak out and begin spiraling towards an inevitability involving murder and a city-wide race for survival.
It is in the latter part of The Collective that the problems begin to mount. The story, while not frighteningly original, is definitely captivating, and the directing is superb. Kelly Overton, who helped to pen the film, is captivating and you really want to see her succeed. But there is something missing in her. Beyond one moment of lashing out at her attackers, she is quietly subdued and takes no real pains to fight strongly against the organization she is trying to undermine. This is probably for the better for The Collective, as they are really just five or so extremely attractive New Yorkers who act more like a book club than any kind of cult. They have moments where they expound metaphorically about the nature of what they are trying to do, but none of it is very deep or foreboding. You want there to be something bigger, more sinister at work, but there isn't...just a slow, methodical crawl that never really escalates into chaos or outright fear. Then of course there is the mid-town race to survive, which shows New York City as a place where you can find anyone in Chinatown just by looking, where trains come every two minutes and drop you off at the correct destination, and apartments are never locked. Simply put, the film's 'run', when it should be pulsing with action and throwing conventions to the floor as it makes a mad dash for the credits, simply isn't strong enough to hold up the weak writing that laces the whole thing together.
It cannot be stressed enough, however, that The Collective is a wonderful example of how independent filmmakers should shoot their next script. The scenes are often dark, eerie, strong, and long-lasting; only to be betrayed by nothing at the end of the tunnel. Writer / directorJudson Morgan may have a brighter future ahead of him by scratching 'writer' from the title, and Kelly Overton seems to have found her niche as an actress instead of a writer, and is none the worse for it. As a husband-wife team, Morgan and Overton will undoubtedly continue to work together; let's just hope they can get something more substantial underneath them next time. As it stands now, The Collective is a well-shot film with good intentions that just can't seem to build up enough strength to keep the audiences from wondering why the heroine doesn't just pick up her cell and call for help, or why the script itself was the only part that truly phoned it in.
You can catch The Collective at this week's Zero Film Festival in downtown LA. Running from the 1st to the 6th, it will feature a number of short films and new features by young and aspiring filmmakers. The Collective airs Thursday at 11p. Visit the Zero Film Festival website for more information.