The Collingswood Story (2002)

Good old Anchor Bay. Without it, many a little-known horror movie would languish in unreleased obscurity – including The Collingswood Story, a movie made some four years ago and only now coming to a DVD shop near you.

A chiller with a refreshingly original way of working around their shoestring budget, The Collingswood Story focuses, to the point of claustrophobia, on the relationship between teens Rebecca and Johnny; Rebecca has moved away, 8-hours across the country, to go to university. Concerned at the strain this will put on their relationship, Johnny gifts her with a videophone so that they can stay in touch. (Whether this is creepily possessive or really rather sweet is up for debate.) Rebecca and Johnny chat with one another, and with various other random people, via webcam-esque video: a technique that simultaneously provides an excuse for the often not terribly good video quality, and negates the need for either any decent locations other than the cast members’ bedrooms, or for the cast members to ever be in the same room as one another. It does have the unfortunate side effect of making the first half seem unnecessarily talky, with very little action, but that’s a reasonably minor issue – once the story picks up the pace a little, it’s easy to forget how deceptively simple the whole set-up is.

Johnny, keen to teach Rebecca how to use her new toy, forwards her some phone numbers of videophone professionals. Amongst them is “Vera Madeline” – a videophone psychic. Her initial reading is based on what she can see in the palms of her callers, pressed earnestly to their screens – though a more complete psychic consultation costs $50. Although she laughs off the psychic’s ominous words, something about Rebecca apparently strikes Vera Madeline as strange, and she begs Johnny to get Rebecca to call back so she can talk to her. An odd little ghost story slowly emerges: the town that Rebecca lives in, Collingswood, has its own haunted house. In that house, a Satanic cult used to worship and offer sacrifices, and even years after they were gone, horrific murders continued to occur in the house. Alone in her new home, Rebecca doesn’t appreciate the ghost stories, but Johnny’s curiosity leads him to dig deeper into the mythology, and come to some very worrying conclusions about his girlfriend’s new address…

The final scenes, where Rebecca, either remarkably bravely or incredibly stupidly, ventures alone into the house’s creepy attic, dragging the videophone’s extension cable with her, are obviously reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, but that’s not to say that they don’t work. On the contrary, there’s something deeply eerie about the whole affair. And the final shot, which I shan’t go into because that’d only spoil the fun, is definitely one that’s hard to forget.

The mundane banality of the beginning scenes work in a way many bigger horror movies can’t pull off: it’s possible to care about these characters, or at least get to know them enough that it matters what happens. The slow and laborious scene-setting pays off in style in the last few moments when everything goes completely to hell – The Collingswood Story is original, clever, and very, very creepy. Top marks.

IMDB link

No comments: