The Collapsed

| June 5, 2012

A note to independent filmmakers: when you’re planning your film’s score, MIDI strings are never the answer. This is a good bit of advice for filmmakers of any type, but genre filmmakers seem particularly enamored of this type of scoring. There are a number of legitimate ways to mask your film’s low-budget nature, but substituting fake strings for an orchestra is not one of them. I feel compelled to mention this because The Collapsed is a perfect example of a MIDI score that does nothing but underline a film’s lack of Hollywood-level production value. Not to say that The Collapsed is even all that bad from a technical standpoint, but the fact that the filmmakers didn’t realize (or just ignored) the effect those MIDI strings have on viewers explains a lot of the film’s basic problems, the main one being its unfortunate facelessness amid a sea of similar post-apocalyptic indie features.

The Weaver family– dad Scott (John Fantasia), mom Emily (Lisa Moule), son Aaron (Steve Vieira) and daughter Rebecca (Anna Ross)– are trying to make their way out of the city where they live after some unspecified event sends the world into utter chaos. They manage to escape to the country, but soon lose their scavenged vehicle and a chance to grab supplies when some intimidating men with machine guns appear and nearly catch the family. Scott is determined that the family make it to the small town of Dovers Bend, where their other son still lives, despite the protests of the rest of the family that he is probably dead. Left without a vehicle, the family treks through a forest in the direction of Dovers Bend, but it soon becomes clear that the guys with machine guns are not the only thing to fear in the woods.

Technically, The Collapsed is fairly solid. Shot with Red digital cameras, the film looks slicker than previous generations of low-budget horror films. This is quickly becoming the standard, though, and The Collapsed doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd of recent post-apocalyptic films that have been making their way to home video. Aside from the grating, repetitive score, The Collapsed is weighed down by many small issues and a few major ones, one of the latter being that the main characters don’t really have the chemistry to make their survivors feel like a real family. That may be more a problem of the writing than the acting (which is fine), considering writer/director Justin McConnell has his characters do things that make very little sense– for example, in one sequence Rebecca sets off into the woods to shave her legs in a stream. It’s hard to imagine that would be a priority given that this happens immediately after the family encounters the guys with machine guns.

Little things like that litter the narrative of The Collapsed, repeatedly causing the viewer to be momentarily yanked out of the story and reminding them that they’re watching a film. Even worse, the film concludes with an obvious revelation that any viewer paying attention will see coming some ways off, but even that could be forgiven if the film generated enough interest in its characters to give the ending the proper emotional heft. Like pretty much any post-apocalyptic trek, this one is filled with dirt, darkness and misery, and even the happiest ending would be tempered by the looming prospect of the end of civilization. Bringing something interesting to that kind of setup is key to a successful PA film, and on that count The Collapsed does not deliver.

Anchor Bay released The Collapsed on DVD on 5 June 2012. Special features include trailers, soundtrack downloads, two commentary tracks, a making-of featurette, and more.

CORRECTION: Rob Kleiner, composer of the score for The Collapsed, has pointed out that the score does not use any MIDI instruments. I apologize for the mistake.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

2 Comments on "The Collapsed"

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  1. robkleiner says:

    Jason – I did the score to the film, and all the strings are real. I’d be happy to send you the files to examine. Don’t quit your day job.

  2. Jason Coffman says:

    Hey Rob, thanks for pointing that out! In that case, I don’t know if it’s the film’s sound mix in my stereo or the DVD sound transfer in general, but the sound definitely doesn’t do the score justice. The strings and (especially) wood instruments sound canned on the disc’s mix.

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