Come on in, the water's shadowy...
Welcome back to Film Gutter, where the waters are distinctly murky this week. We're back to one of our favourite haunts, Canada – the nation which brought us the genuinely upsetting Thanatomorphose, among others – for another grim and grimy dip. The film we're exploring this time is Collar, the latest offering from Gutterballs director Ryan Nicholson and a suitably dark experience it is too.
Collar follows what is on the whole one of the most unlikeable casts for a movie I've ever seen – deliberately so, mind. We have a set of drug dealers, pimps, junkies and opportunists all out to make money however they can. It's all set in the dark backstreets, late at night, and there's not a great deal of hope for any of the characters. And at the very centre of this whirlpool of dregs is Massive, an animalistic psychopath who lives in an alleyway behind the high street. He pushes a trolley of his possessions around, wears ragged and filthy clothing and has a penchant for rape and murder. All the while he is followed around by Steven and Jerry, whose first instinct on finding this brutal individual is not to offer his victims any help, or to call the police, but to film everything on their camera phone with a view to selling it on and becoming 'famous'. Their mission is nothing more than to lurk in the shadows and capture what goes on, but unfortunately when his Massive's latest victim sees them recording in the shadows the brutality is only ever going to take a step further. Especially as she happens to be related to one of the most prominent drug dealers in town, who certainly isn't going to let the matter lie...
But why Collar? Well, the title has a twofold importance in the movie – through a series of flashbacks we find out that Massive was a former priest, and unfortunately one with a pederastic past. For me there's a definite indication – although it's ever really made absolutely clear in the movie – that what he is enduring throughout the movie is a sort of punishment for his past actions. Maybe that's just personal interpretation, but I do feel as though something is forcing Massive into his actions rather than him being willing. You might just have to watch for yourself and see what you feel about it. The other implication of the collar is that one of Massive's main victims in the movie – a policewoman sent to investigate reports of crimes committed in the alley – finds herself chained throughout proceedings. It's this character and her girlfriend that bring pretty much the only ray of optimism here – but is it barely visible in the Stygian surroundings...
For me, Collar is a really well put-together piece of low-budget extreme horror. The rape and murder is presented pretty realistically and will have you cringing in a good many places. At first my impression of the visual aspects was that it was too dark, but as Collar wears on you get a real sense that this is intentional and actually adds something to the effect of the film. This is pure bottom of the gutter stuff – there are absolutely no heroes here, only victims – rarely of circumstance and more likely of their own deplorable actions. It's a disturbing glimpse into the very underbelly of society and one that might leave a bit of a black cloud hanging over you by the finale. Ryan Nicholson is for sure a director to watch – someone who can produce work on a relative shoestring that is brutally effective and also sharply original.
RATING: 8/10. Moody and unsettling, Collar is another very effective piece from Ryan Nicholson. While it lacks the grim humour of Gutterballs, the blackness is still there in droves as we meet a simply despicable cast as they embark on their horribly self-interested and self-obsessed activities. If you really fancy a literal dive into the gutter – rather than the metaphorical one we take here each week – then this might be just the film for you.