The Collingswood Story

Starring: Stephanie Dees, Johnny Burton and Vera Madeline
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
RRP: 14.99
Certificate: 18
Available 19 June 2006

Rebecca has moved to Collingswood to attend college. She keeps in touch with her boyfriend, John, via dial-up webcams. On her birthday John gives her a couple of webcam numbers to try for fun. The first is a fat bearded man who does nothing in particular and expects people to be entertained, and the other is a clairvoyant who immediately warns her to get out of the house. John contacts the clairvoyant himself and is told that the mayor of Collingswood was the leader of an evil cult. In the 1800s eleven children went missing, and their bodies were later discovered in a well. The authorities surrounded the house of the mayor, trapping him inside, but when they narrowed the search down to the attic he couldn't be found, and his body was never recovered. The clairvoyant is convinced that something evil remains in the house which Rebecca has rented out. John urges her to leave, but instead she links the webcam to her laptop and carries it up into the attic. Bad mistake...

Let me say straight away that this is a low-budget and restrictive film, which is perhaps what you might expect from a motion picture directorial debut. However, what writer / director Mike Costanza achieves within these confines isn't half bad. Don't expect lots of running around, stunts and special effects, because there aren't any. The restraints have made this more of a mood piece, which is clever talk for not a lot happening. In fact, nothing of great significance takes place until the very end, and then suddenly the film's over. It's curious that the director talks on the featurette about the "challenge" of filming the entire movie as if it all takes place via webcam. Surely this plays into a novice's hands. It is fascinating to hear that some overdubbed lines had to be recorded inside a car because they couldn't afford to hire out a sound studio. That's not just a story, you actually see it happen!

Costanza cites among his main influences John Carpenter (Hooray!), the master of low- budget horror, and a certain other penniless blockbuster. In the aforementioned final scene I finally got to enjoy an injection of suspense, only to realise I was suddenly watching The Blair Witch Project in all but name. When a director admits influences upfront, as in this case, plagiarism happily becomes homage.

Apparently, when Collingswood was first released most people didn't get it, but then webcams took off in a big way and suddenly the film was being requested at every festival going, including Frightfest in London. It was finally picked up by Mike Myers and presented to Anchor Bay.

In short, this is an average watchable film if you don't expect too much. The performances from the main two actors are competent, but they are not given nearly enough to do. Extras include a featurette; outtakes; an alternate scene; auditions; a stills gallery; Costanza's NYU student film; and an award-winning short film.

Ty Power

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