Harold Camping gave so many details about the end of the world, he was a veritable windbag about it.
But in movies, the Apocalypse and explanation have been drifting apart for years. Why did the world end? It just did, OK?
And hey, if an unexplained Armageddon is good enough for The Road, it's good enough for a $1.98 Canadian indie like The Collapsed, right?
Except that, when budgetary constraints leave you without bells and whistles, it behooves you to bring something else to the table, like say Cormac McCarthy's ruminations on life, or Sam Raimi's sense of humour, back when he was making Evil Dead movies for a buck.
You can't blame the budget for the prosaic script in The Collapsed, in which four family members, dad (John Fantasia), mom (Lise Moule), teenage son (Steve Vieira) and daughter (Anna Ross) make their way out of a burning city (where people are inexplicably and conveniently lying dead next to their conveniently gassed-up cars) into the no-less-deadly woods somewhere in Ontario cottage country, in hopeful pursuit of their other son.
A few flame-engulfed city windows later (there goes the budget), and we're left with a family making smalltalk on the run, mostly saying things like, "Let's go!" and "We've got to keep moving!" All we know about the aftermath of the Big Event is that there are guys in gasmasks carrying automatic weapons and siphoning gas out of cars. And it seems as if there's some asthmatic heavy-breathing entity following them in the woods.
So with not much in the way of payoff (except, as I say, a tiny amount of pyro and some exploding fake-blood gel packs in the last act), nothing profound to say and no symbolism or metaphors to appreciate (if I'm missing something deep, please tell me), we're left with the indie film fan's last resort -- unintended humour.
Again, you can't blame a low budget for a plot that has family members risking going off by themselves for the most ridiculous of reasons (You have to go down to the river to shave your legs NOW? REALLY?). And the volume level and emotional intensity of the acting virtually never rises above the flatness of a double-dose of Xanax, no matter who gets picked off or how deep and profound the loss.
There is, unfortunately, not enough repeated ludicrousness in The Collapsed to make for a decent drinking game. On the other hand, there is the performance of my new favourite B actor, John Fantasia (I mean, just the name alone!).
I don't know if it's an affectation, or that they're both New Yorkers, but Fantasia is a spot-on soundalike for Christopher Walken. And any time you get bored watching this family tromp their way through the woods toward a "twist" ending M. Night Shyamalan wouldn't consider in even his hackiest moment, you can just close your eyes and pretend Walken is starring in this. Seriously, try it. It's fun.
At that point, all the movie needs is more cowbell.