I had not heard of Colin before being seeing it at the Flyway Film Festival's International Zombie Summit in October of 2009. I was intrigued by the poster art, and the film's rumored $70 budget - but mostly by the long overdue concept of telling this type of story from the inside out. You see, Colin is a zombie movie - but it's told from the zombie's point of view. A zombie named Colin.
The best zombie films often make us think about what it means to be Human. Since Romero established the tradition with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, zombie films are often allegories for their time, in that they say something about the current direction in which humanity is traveling. No one has really done this better than Romero, whose subtext is often social and political and speaks of The Big Picture.
But Colin teaches us more about The Big Picture by making us think of what it means to be human in the "little h" sense of the word; the idea of what it means to be a person, an individual, ourselves... It does this by showing what it means to Colin to be Colin.
In the opening moments of this film we watch our protagonist die with no real sense of who he is. He shortly awakens - undead - with even less of a sense of his identity than we have. Colin is reduced to a relentless core of need that is nameless - but that drives him on an obscure journey to reconnect with the phantom limb of his humanity. Along the way, scenes of mayhem unfold, some of which would feel familiar (such as the overwhelming and intense zombie siege inside the apartment building), but through the uniqueness of their approach come off as being told for the first time - the very freshness of these scenes should cause them to become legendary. However, as intense and enjoyable as these moments are, they often have little to do with Colin's story, which is gradually told through flashbacks both intimate and personal. It's in these qualities that I feel Colin finds its ultimate uniqueness and strength. It's a strength that may alienate Colin from fans of horror culture junk food, but is likely to win new fans who just like good movies, and enjoy a little nutrition when faced with so many empty calories.
In the world of horror cinema (and especially within the zombie sub-genre) it's not often that a film this quiet and unique gets made, and somewhat shocking when it gets noticed. The habitat of the horror film is frequently a crowded landscape of volume and violence, dominated by big-budget gore, homogeneous jump cuts and startling noises, remakes with no heart and no risk (and subsequently, no tension), all shouting through studio-mandated, gold-plated megaphones "LOOK AT ME!!! YOU ARE THE CONSUMER AND WE ARE THE EXPERTS AND YOU'LL WATCH ANYTHING WE MAKE EVEN WHEN WE INSULT YOUR VIEWING INTELLIGENCE". But Colin is just the opposite of this: Colin makes you feel like you are part of the story rather than having a story told to you - almost a Howard Zinn-esque "People's History of the Zombie Apocalypse". The story of Colin is told as if you - the viewer - actually matter.
Ultimately Colin - like its haunted score, written by Daniel Weekes and Jack Elphick - is modest and quiet and keeps to itself. It's an hypnotic, lingering study in Zombiance that shows though the body may be dead - the soul doesn't go so easily, making it almost more of a ghost story. Don't get me wrong, there is some pretty nasty gore and loud, shaky scenes of panicky chaos in this film - but while the rest of the world goes on shouting and struggling and fighting around him, Colin himself as a zombie is uninterested in the carnage and spectacle, feeding only out of a distracted necessity. He stumbles about lost, looking for pieces of himself to form a breadcrumb trail - more a victim of amnesia and long-term introspection than a shambling corpse. Along the way, we gradually learn what it is that drives him so - and in the end, something obvious and profound is revealed.
That humanity is always looking for the way home.