The Collingswood Story (2002)
Director: Michael Costanza
Two lovers with a shaky relationship, Rebecca (Dees) and Johnny (Burton), keep in touch through webcams while the former is away at college. But when good old John hooks his girl up with a webcam psychic (Madeline) for her B-day, the shite hits the fan and a spooky scenario is ignited.
Making movies is hard; making a low-budget horror movie that’s actually good and quality-inclined is even harder. To maximize his budget, while at the same time being original, writer/director Michael Costanza put out the bulk of this baby as exchanges between a rocky couple through webcams. The webcam images themselves are also often communicated via desktop POV shots. How’s that for a concept?
I have to applaud this movie, not only for its creative streak, but also for avoiding the usual low-budget pitfalls. The quality of the writing, the dialogue itself, is the first thing that I want to point out. It felt natural and real and the actors were obviously well supported by the screenplay. And when you consider that the flick depended mainly on its two lead “yappers” to carry itself, that upped the importance of solid casting as well. I’m also happy to report that Costanza made some gnarly choices on that front also. Stephanie Dee (Rebecca) was my anchor to this movie; she kept me watching with her glowing smile, her expressive eyes and her natural demeanor. As for John Burton (John), he also came through with a solid delivery and appealing charisma. He did have me wondering why he wore that baseball cap 24/7 though. Damn...the man must love that cap! Dude, let it go! Joking aside, with two lesser actors tackling the material, the flick might've tanked.
From a narrative standpoint, there’s more than webcam bla-bla in this house. Humorous touches (that old dude with the giggly tits) and a haunting back-story are sprinkled about this tale. Chilling dream sequences, eerie psychic-at-play scenes (loved the candles) and plot ambiguities were also tossed into the mix. Last but not least, I totally grooved on the few exterior shots which the flick sported. If they weren’t giving me glimpses of the evil in the air through stylish subliminal images and classy black and white footage, they were giving me a nice little pee-break from the claustrophobic aura of the webcam world. It was refreshing to take those little strolls outside.
On an e-mail virus note, alas, the film did feel a tad redundant at times but even worse, never managed to get under my skin or go far enough with its horror games. I needed more to whoop me into fear mode! I mean, the story builds and builds and builds and although it kept my interest with its characters and dialogue, I kept waiting for the thrill bumps to kick in hardcore; they didn’t until the creepy finale. This brings me to the ending that screamed "Blair Witch Project" at me in terms of tone and morbid anticipation. It was easily the more fearful bit in the movie, as I sat up nervously and lapped it up, but when it was over, I found it to be too abrupt and too short to be fully appreciated. I was so reeled in; I was in there, I was feeling it and then…it was over. Once the closing credits rolled, I was craving for more of that feeling of unease!
On a whole, I still couldn’t help but be wooed by the talent behind "The Collingswood Story" though. The film succeeded as a character-driven piece and it, willingly or not, wound up making a statement about that extra “detachment wall” technology has brought into our social lives and our relationships. I guess my main complaint with the film was that it never fully rocked my senses as a horror movie. Let’s turn on our web cams and see what Becca is wearing?
Not much of the Ketchup stuff, but we do get a quick shot of a person with their eyes scooped out and a knife-induced carved up smile. We also get Johnny’s baseball cap in all of its splendor.
Stephanie Dees (Rebecca) rocked the kasbah, giving a very natural and charming performance. I cared about her character and therefore cared about the goings-on. Johnny Burton (Johnny) also came out of this one a winner with a kool delivery and charisma. Vera Madeline (Vera) plays it down as the psychic and it works. Grant Edmonds (Billy) didn’t work for me, especially compared to the better actors in the crib: he’s the weakest link here.
T & A
Unfortunately for me, Stephanie Dees spent the bulk of the film OVER-DRESSED! Come on! Doesn’t anybody sleep in the nude anymore? Take it all off! Be free Stephanie! The ladies get Grant Edmond’s white ass and Johnny Burton going topless.
Webcam-wise Michael Costanza milks his idea cleverly right down to everybody’s specific desktop wallpaper. He also knows how to build and sustain morbid atmosphere, the exterior shots were all about that, with subliminal shots, black and white footage and snazzy angles up the wazoo. They complemented the webcam scenes perfectly.
We get lots of grumbling-like sounds and some background pop/rock tunes.
Michael Costanza and all involved should pat each other on the ass with baby oil for a job well done. The quality "The Collingswood Story" displayed when it came to the writing, acting and directing was top-notch. Sure, the film never really scared me and when it almost did, it let me go too early...but I was still engaged throughout, taken in by the peeps and the novel concept. Log on to this one if you get the chance.
The shooting budget for this film was $10,000. It took about 15 days to shoot - all spread out over months.
Although in the film Becca and Johnny seem to be speaking to each other via webcams, Costanza shot his actors performances separately, therefore having to pay special attention to the reactions of the actors so that they match as a “dialogue”.
I think this movie would make a great stage place with the right adjustments.