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One does not simply watch a Ryan Nicholson movie. If you know the name, good for you - and you know what I mean. If not, and you're a horror fan, best catch up real quick. Nicholson is one of the fiercest voices in horror today. Collar is exemplary of Nicholson's particular brand of madness. Full of humor, insane violence, and degradation, the movie is vintage Nicholson. It also might be his most heartfelt and humanistic effort yet. (Yeah, I said it; humanistic.) Belly up to the bar for 70 minutes of modern grindhouse nastiness.
A pulsing, John Carpenter-esque electro theme (courtesy of Protector 101) follows Massive, (Nick Principe) an insane homeless loner, through the mean streets of Vancouver, British Columbia. Massive pushes a shopping cart full of trash and heavy metal chains, decorated with a pentagram made from duct tape. Massive decides to shave off his nasty dreadlocks with a piece of broken glass, carving up his scalp in the process. It's a crude and disgusting scene, and nothing compared to the atrocities to follow.
In some ways, Nicholson's all over the map in Collar. Massive's story of abuse intersects with that of a pair of street hustlers, a spunky lesbian cop and her jaded partner, a hooker and her nerdy john, and a pair of jerky, wanna-be Bumfights smartphone auteurs, but who the fuck really cares, when those auteurs are able to inspire Massive to strangle another homeless gent so forcefully his eyes literally pop out of his head?
Did I mention that there are yet even more extreme atrocities to witness? I won't spoil too many more surprises, except to mention that at one point Massive snaps a victim in two, belly up, in order to sup on the intestines handily revealed.
Collar is rough around the edges. Sometimes conflicting vibes don't exactly gel, in particular the callous comedy elements presented by the two douchebags filming Massive as he kills, in contrast to the serious love story between rookie cop Dana (Aidan Dee) and her girlfriend. And, as an independent filmmaker, Nicholson works with pretty small budgets. His shot-on-the-fly set-pieces almost look to have been filmed guerilla-style; their grittiness shows, and it's not always pretty. But what Collar lacks in polish, it more than makes up for with savagery and heart. In particular, chaotic cinematography perfectly captures Massive's degenerating mind. Principe and Dee give themselves wholly to their roles, rendering an over-the-top story believable and tragic. Nicholson even wraps up frenzied bloodshed with a message of hope. How's that for originality in the horror genre? Collar is sick, savage, and outrageous. For fans of unflinching horror, it's Recommended.
[Edited to add:] This is the fourth Ryan Nicholson movie I've reviewed. My first was the egregiously trashy Gutterballs, followed by the even more horrifically benighted Hanger, (and you don't even want to know where that title comes from, but read my review and watch the movie - you'll see) and - until now - resting on Bleading Lady, a possible attempt at "respectability". I, for one, am glad Nicholson ditched respectability for the streamlined madness that is Collar, and in my way, am updating my previous assessments to a blanket Highly Recommended for anyone who likes their horror dirty. Keep it up, Ryan!
This 1.85:1 ratio presentation reflects its origins in the trenches of low-budget horror. That is, it's not the best-looking film you've ever seen. Colors are pretty rich and natural, but there's a lot of stuff shot under sodium streetlights, lending a sickly air. Details are fairly average, too, coming from a picture that's acceptably sharp, but not the greatest. I didn't notice much in the way of transfer problems, however, possibly because my own eyes had been popped out of my skull.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Audio is obviously not swimming with dimensionality, but is otherwise just fine. Protector 101's score sounds awesome and is mixed nicely with dialog and other soundtrack elements, which are in general easy to absorb, and perfectly discernable.
The only real disappointment here is a lack of substantial extras. Trailers for Collar and a handful of other delightfully sicko Unearthed Films movies are accompanied by a Stills Gallery, which at least reveals the fun Nicholson's crew had while making the movie, while giving you a closer look at some of the simple and ingenious practical gore effects used.
Collar is sick, savage, and outrageous. For fans of unflinching horror, it's Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke