The Collingswood story makes a really serious effort to play on that whole “Blair Witch Thing” as I like to call it… You know, where an indie filmmaker decides to make a horror movie by using things like handheld cameras, black and white, grainy film, and computers by incorporating them into the story as an interesting medium. Think about the film called “Feardotcom” starring Stephen Dorff, or that low budget indie “Off the Beaten Path” which basically steal the idea that Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez came up with in 1999 in their groundbreaking film.
“The Collingswood Story” is sort of the same deal. It looks at the relationship between Becky and her boyfriend John, after she has gone away to Collingswood for college, and their attempt to keep in touch through Internet web cams. “The Collingswood Story”, though, unlike “Fear.com” or “Off the Beaten Path”, is extremely engaging and fun, and like Blair Witch, it doesn’t really deliver at the end, but provides a full 78 minutes of tension in between. More importantly, The Collingswood story has time to build up real character development and suspense before throwing the climax at you.
A creepy tale of underground cults, creepy old houses, psychic prophesy, witchcraft, murder, terror, and lost love that sucks you in is the strength of “The Collingswood Story”. If only it were strong enough…
The clear advantages of using Internet web cams as an interface for the characters to interact are important; it provides an artistic look at the film, with tons of new opportunities to use creative cinematography and to just plain old be “artistic” and “different”. It also is cheap, because many of the shots can be amateurish and downright incomprehensible, and it’s okay because the characters are the ones in control of the footage. Also, it’s way cheap and you can spend the money on your film the way you want; merchandising, graphics, and effects. Sounds good, but one thing about these types of films is that because they have such amateurish camera work, it’s sometime shard to watch. From the intense darkness or overwhelming brightness of the shots, the shakiness, the graininess, and the seemingly endlessly still or constantly moving scenes. It’s almost too distracting to follow the storyline at times. Mike Costanza spent lots of time creatively working out the ideas for this story, apparently, and made original art, a mythology, and complicated computer graphics, but let the cameras run wild.
Though it builds tons of suspense and is so intriguing (I felt like I couldn’t stop watching it) that you stay glued to the screen, the ending is actually a big let down. I felt the same way about “The Blair Witch Project”, however; that I wanted more and didn’t get it. The gore is ultra light in this film, and the gory ending gives us no real explanation or resolution to the entire story, much like in the original “Blair Witch”. In fact, the ten minutes preceding the end and the last shot that concludes the film are almost exact in pace and tone to “The Blair Witch Project”. It’s a shame that the idea was fairly original, but because of the way the filmmaker chose to present this story to the audience, it can’t be helped but be compared to “The Blair Witch Project”, which was infinitely more successful and original because it came first.
The computer interfaces also present a problem; in future years, this film will be as dated as “Tron”, “The Net”, and “War Games” are today. Anytime you show a computer screen as the main idea behind a film with computers advancing at such a pace as they are today, you put yourself in a position to be laughed at.
The characters of Rebecca and John are so good together, and they mesh really well with the computer screens you see them in most of the time. Vera Madeleine the online Psychic, who initially sparks the entire fear of the film, is both creepy and believable. The intense storyline and deep emotions between the characters is great, and you find yourself truly caring about what happens to these people. Unfortunately, the end of the film is so abrupt and unsatisfying that you never find out what really happens to these people. It’s all just up to the imaginations. That’s okay, but I liked it better the first time, when it was called “The Blair Witch Project”.