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The Collapsed (Justin McConnell, 2011)
Despite being set almost entirely in the outdoors, The Collapsed takes on the feel of a chamber drama early on, with stilted conversations about the declining state of humanity and the characters’ limited survival options. The film’s four main characters are members of the same family, and they are paired off with one another, much as they would be in a stage play. This heightened tone subsides by the film’s midpoint, however, once terrible events set the narrative into motion.
The second half of The Collapsed almost feels like a different film entirely. The dominant tone becomes one of paranoia, as the survivors begin to fear that something alien in the woods is stalking them. While it would be an exaggeration to say that this material is gripping, it does hold one’s attention reasonably well. Scenes of the family’s father and son coming to terms with the decay of humanity have much of the same despair, if not the same visual splendor, as John Hillcoat’s adaptation of The Road. Indeed, as small scale thrillers go, this one is technically accomplished. Without much actually represented on screen, McConnell manages to suggest that the few characters that we see are the last remnants of mankind. On the flipside, Rob Kleiner’s overbearing score does the film no favors, too deeply underscoring and often overpowering the action.
Ultimately, The Collapsed manages to corral its literary pretensions well enough that it manages to avoid embarrassing itself. There have been no shortage of films and television programs that have failed to exploit this sort of scenario, so that is not as much as a backhanded compliment as it might seem. By the time The Collapsed moves into its closing moments, it has managed to grow surprisingly unsettling. That level of unease couldn’t have been created without a fair amount of confidence behind the camera.