Take a Dekko at this EVIL! “The Collingswood Story” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)



Rebecca moves from her small town of Bedford, Virginia to Collingswood, New Jersey to attend college.  Her small town boyfriend, Johnny, buys her a webcam to keep in touch with long distant video chatting, or to more so keep tabs on the sanctity of their fraying relationship.  For her birthday, Johnny provides her an entertaining list of audiovisual phone numbers to call, one such number belonging to an enigmatic online psychic Vera Madeline who is compelled to reveal Collingswood’s gruesome, satanic ritualistic history with one of the town’s most horrific mass murders having occurred at the very house Rebecca currently resides.  As Rebecca and Johnny investigate deeper, the webcam keeps rolling as their curiosity leads them into a dark and deadly supernatural mystery that will engulf them both. 

Talk about dated content!  “The Collingswood Story” is the 2002 trailblazer for the paranormal webcam subgenre that has ballooned over the last decade with the success of “Host,” “Followed,” and even the “Paranormal Activity” mega-franchise.  Writer-director Mike Costanza’s early 2000s film starkly contrasts how internet communication technology has changed over the last two decades with the ridiculous long corded phone jack plugins, time consuming uploading of camera footage before the invention of social media live platforms, and the lack of a pre-multiple participant teleconference with a limited single caller-to-caller video application. Once under the working title of “Mischief Night” as the story is set around Halloween night, “The Collingswood Story” is one of Constanza’s first feature films after branching out from the Paramount Pictures’ art department and right into the low-budget horror constraints, but the novel stylistic idea, based off real reports of a mass murder in a New Jersey town and saw little-to-no post-completion success traction back in the early 2000s, was a sell-produced production by Constanza’s Cinerebel Media along with associate producer Beverly Burton.

An interesting tidbit about “The Collingwood Story’s” shooting with the cast is that all the actors were shot individually since everything was done on essentially a webcam. Constaza would be in the room and read opposite the actor in performance. What’s spliced together makes good on delivering reasonable and believable menace, but without talent performances, there would not have been a revisiting home video release of this title. Stephanie Dees got her start in a major horror franchise by playing a minor role in “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and 13 years later, Dees finds herself in the lead role of pioneering computer horror as birthday Rebecca. Opposite Rebecca is the lovesick paranoid puppy Johnny, played by Johnny Burton in his only credited role. Rebecca and Johnny go through the song and dance of his skirting around his relationship controlling paranoia as he bounces from Rebecca to his crass friend Bill (Grant Edmonds) while Rebecca is the picture of studious student, ignorant to the self-imposed friction in Johnny’s head. Burton’s a little stiff around the gills in his one-note and uninspired blue collar rendition of a longing, small town boyfriend whose personality matches his small bedroom as a background that never changes with the character unlike Rebecca who seems to grow into her environment with ever frame. In what’s probably her biggest identified role in a feature film, television actress Diane Behrens lurks in the shadows as the enigmatic psychic Vera Madeline wresting the story away from the slow burn of a dissolving relationship of young lovers and diverting into what we all came here for – a thrilling ghost story. Behrens plays the part with showmanship and a subtle inking that anything itching to come off her of mouth will be infomercial and portentous.

What Costanza has accomplished technically with “The Collingswood Story” is nothing short of amazing in his ability to seamlessly film and edit not only the scenes together coherently but also fabricate a meaningful connection between the two actors, shooting separately without a breath of another’s creativity to pull from, over still rather new and evolving technology to which some opposing critics would consider the technology to be disassociating the social standards.  “The Collingswood Story” is not a point and click monotony of talking head syndrome one might expect as Costanza, despite the gratuitous B-roll footage recorded by Rebecca as she drives around Collingwood searching specific locations, adds enough main footage filler of Johnny’s suspicions of a secret boyfriend, Johnny’s lowlife, yet witty, friend Billy giving him bad advice, and of psychic Vera Madeline’s mystifying mysticisms to keep viewers engaged while looking through the garbled eyeglass of lower compression bitrate quality of webcam footage shot on a Hi-8 camcorder that truly gives Costanza’s film that 90’s SOV feel at times.  There’s also the age-old theme of helplessness associated with webcam horror where those characters watching, just like us viewers, can only watch in an eye-widening terror unable to be a lifesaving branch of help when the supernatural stuff goes down.  Costanza also conveys the sense that the paranormal has zero limitations on a medium, in either a soothsayer or an internet conduit facet, to extend evil from the beyond, but the limitations on sensibility can extend only to a certain point in a culminating of Rebecca’s foreboding curiosity as her expedition into her lodging’s attic behooves her to take her laptop, along with its super long extension jack plugin cord, in order for her boyfriend, who lives a good 600 miles South, to accompany her into the darkness.  At this point, technology has yet to catch up with “The Collingswood Story” need and that’s where plausibility of the characters logic fumbles coinciding with an open for interpretation ending that wraps too quickly and asks more questions than provide answers.

For the first time, “The Collingswood Story” receives a proper North American release where technology has finally caught up to Mike Costanza’s vision! Cauldron Films presents the worldwide debut of a high definition, unrated, and region free Blu-ray release, remastered from the original source tapes by Costanza himself. Filmed on a Super Hi-8 camcorder, with Costanza undoubtedly the DP, “The Collingswood Story” remains presented in it’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and what also remains is the compression artefacts associated with transferring the source tapes. Certainly nothing devastating beyond a handful of B-roll scenes as much of the webcam shots look neat and tidy, but I’m surprised the reversal, aka webcam perspective of the person talking, scenes still shows a fair amount of blocky noise. The English language 2.0 stereo mix emits noticeable background static from, more than likely the culprit, the digital interference. The faint hum of dialogue track feedback hum is annoyingly choppy and it’s not just the play on the webcam mic of come-and-go vocals and background noise; however, the dialogue is clean and clear. The choice of soundtrack, a sundry of late 90’s-early 2000s placid rock, is audibly limp even for the dual channel output. The release comes with option English SDH subtitles and has a runtime of 82 minutes. Special features includes a behind the story with Mike Costanza looking back at the genesis of the idea as well as noting his inspiration for the idea, an interview with Stephanie Dees, an interview with Johnny Burton and Grant Edmonds, a director commentary, image gallery, and trailer. Despite it’s antiquated flaws, the crossbreeding of tech and terror in “The Collingswood Story” should have lifted the film into the cult status rafters of found footage films with the likes of “The Blair Witch Project,” but in lieu of the world’s massive oversight, Cauldron Film’s release is a big leap forward that looks back to the past.

Own the Limited Edition “The Collingswood Story” on Blu-ray Today!

Subscribe to EVIL’s Vlog! “Followed” reviewed! (Global View Entertainment / Digital Screener)


Unable to entertain that ghosts actually exist and to be one of the best social media influencers he can be on the world wide web, influencer “DropTheMike” vlogs locations’ ghastly back stories that are now presumably haunted by the very souls the locations consumed. When offered a once in a lifetime opportunity, worth a small fortune in the sum of a quarter of a million dollars and set start up his family with his recently pregnant fiancé, “DropTheMike” quickly challenges his followers to scout out the next paranormal investigation on the cusp of Halloween in 2016. With the results in, an overwhelming number of responses held one of the most notoriously haunted hotels in America, The Lennox, as his and his video crew’s next targeted exploration from the tops of the roof to the dank, dark basement. Ecstatic and eager in a pool of mixed emotions amongst his crew, “DropTheMike” pushes forward despite the forewarning counsel from a hotel historian and his friends, booking rooms for a three day stay that turns horribly frightening when the social media influencer’s greed for followers and fortune provokes the damned souls and the spirit of an infamous serial killer who once hacked up his victims in the very same room “DropTheMike” is staying in.

Us bloggers always try to use our social media platform powers to not only gain internet popularity amongst the ever growing, or continuously exploding, tsunami of 24/7 news, reviews, and inspirational muses for instant, impactful transmission to billions of users, but also to express the things we, the bloggers/vloggers, express what we’re passionate about. Sometimes, what we’re blindly passionate about undertaking can haunt and consume our very being, and also destroy our souls and that’s the epitomic baseline for Antoine Le’s 2020 supernatural cyber-horror “Followed” that’ll feed into select drive-in theaters Friday the 19th. “Followed” is Le’s debut full-length feature film penned by the self-help screenwriting guru, Todd Klick. Shot on location in Los Angeles, Le and his crew use a number of different hotels give the illusion of being inside the fictitious Hotel Lennox, including Hayward Manor Hotel for the lobby scenes and Hotel Normandie for the interior rooms, re-working the rest digitally to effectively pull off the faux location without issue. Branded Pictures Entertainment and Le’s own co-founded Viscape Arts, along with co-producers Greg Berlant and Matthew Ryan Brewbaker, server as the production studios that pushes cyber-horror virtually toward to the forefront of found footage and dark web terror.

In front of the camera, the main attraction, the host with the most is “DropTheMike,” played enthusiastically by Matthew Solomon in his sophomore feature film and handling the pressures of a demanding social influencer position with pizazz to generate subscriptions with the utmost vigor. Personally, I’m familiar with too many influencers that cast a pendulum energy to the akin of a zany children’s educator personality known as Blippie. Google Blippie and have you’ll be able to paint a picture of a less morbid version of “DropTheMike” but with the same kind of body and facial expressions. Solomon’s counterpart is Tim Drier as Mike’s director of photography, Chris. Reversed within the confines of his Christian faith, Chris has serious reservations about The Lennox stunt, opposing Mike at every plea for him to shoot what could be the influencer’s biggest achievement and turning point of his mediocre career. If it wasn’t for being sweet on Danni, a fellow DP, Chris would snuff out any venture into the what Mike thinks is the one big publicity stunt. Played by “The Incantation’s” Sam Valentine, Danni’s a bit of an instigator or, perhaps, shares Mike’s agnostic views on the spirt world, but communes with the film crew in order to reach out to her former fling in Chris and see what materializes from the questions that have been plaguing her. The story primarily focuses on the trio and their friendship dynamics, but there are interesting key support roles that provide a well timed and deserving boost to keep “Followed” grippingly tense and violently rough-hewn toward the path of the malevolent specter plane, including performances by Caitlin Grace, Kelsey Griswold, Christopher Ross Martin (“American Horror Story: 1984), and veteran actor of “Deer Hunter” and “Carnisaur 2,” John Savage.

What makes “Followed” different from other cyber-horror genre films, such as “Unfriended,” “iLived,” or “Like.Share.Follow?” Cyber-horror looks a lot different now than 20 years ago when the genre viewed the mechanics of machine was bedeviling autonomy and people were slave to the machine in one way or another. “Death Machine,” “Lawnmower Man,” and “Evil Speak” are the quintessential ghost in the machine with each plot platters different variations of to subordinate mankind. Now, these films might seem low-tech and more tangible instead of the trying to grasp the idea of cyberspace. Aside from the dark web snuff premises, cyber-horror nowadays, such as “Followed,” is bound by the original influencer, the devil, who has strewn his watermark through the many conduits of streaming services, infecting at will the dark powers to beguile and besiege the barrier of rationality, and deconstruct human morality to the most primitive and primary sin. “Followed” doesn’t break the mold of cyber-horror, but exploits the mold to the max to deliver a terrifying hotel with a ghastly black past. Based perhaps on a number of personal grim accounts and then chained together like an all-in-one anthology, “Followed” jazzes up with the second act with myths, visions, and theories between the rather ordinary bookend beginning and end, always stepping up evil’s game to the point where you never know what to expect and that’s what’s enjoyable about the found footage aspect because nothing is certain, especially when each floor has a history of violence.

Book your reservation to hell and subscribe to the nerve-racking black magic of Antoine Le’s “Followed” hitting the drive-in theaters on June 19th, insidiously expanding into more drive-in theaters on June 26, and eventually landing onto VOD later summer 2020 courtesy of the new kid on the film distributor block, Global View Entertainment. Since “Followed” was viewed as a digital screener, the video and audio aspects will not be critiqued, but the official specs include a presentation in a widescreen format, aspect ratio 1.85:1 with an English language 5.1 surround sound audio mix inside a 96 minute runtime. “Followed” is a visual feast that apply a number of different kind of filming techniques from handheld, spy cams, and security footage and brush the hue spectrum from the ominously vibrant reds to the forlorn splay of sterile metal and steel. With tactics that include a pluralistic phantom ecosystem all living together at the Lennox Hotel, the varied soundscapes and ambient bytes spookily outfit the multi-headed apparition commune existing just on the threshold of the reality plane and seeping in when poked, like a sleeping bear with a stick. There were no bonus material included or any additional scenes during or after the credits. “Followed” is a cherub of the cyber-horror junkets before it’s time that indulges itself into the destructive and careless path of a social influencer, ignoring the sinister forces amongst the other things, like personal property, public safety, or personal safety, real influences tend to disregard when climbing the social media latter to the 15 minutes of fame of internet stardom.

Find a Drive-In near you by clicking on “Followed” official website : https://followedhorrormovie.com/

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