Collective

Rating:

Power to the People, this “self published” movie works!

Main cast: Kelly Overton and Wynn Everett

Director: Judson Pearce Morgan and Kelly Overton

As a self publishing author, I have nothing but respect for artists–writers, musicians or filmmakers–who take their craft into their own hands and go right to the audience, bypassing the gatekeepers and doing the work they want to do on their terms. So to find out the movie I was watching today, The Collective, was co-written and co-directed by the star of the movie, Kelly Overton (“True Blood”, “All My Children”), she instantly won me over and I was, strangely, able to enjoy the movie even more.

Made with her husband, Judson Pearce Morgan, The Collective tells the story of Tyler who, upon receiving a cryptic and disturbing voicemail from her sister, Jessica (Wynn Everett, “The Event”), flies to New York City to bring her sibling home. She has a hard time tracking the girl down, but she’s contacted by a friend of Jessica’s, Clare (Laura Allen, “All My Children”), who tells her Jessica is really busy and can’t see you right now, but she wanted me to tell you she’s fine and you should go back home.

Naturally Tyler says sure thing, just as soon as Jess tells me that herself, in person. Fine, Clare huffs, give me a day to work it out.

Finally, Clare calls and tells Tyler where to meet and Jessica has agreed to see her. She’s given directions to an old cathedral that’s been repurposed as a private residence owned by a rich whacko, Rost (nope, not a typo), who has made himself into the figurehead of a group calling itself The Collective. They’re pretty tight knit, and Jessica is a part of their group, so Tyler can go up and talk to her, but it won’t do any good. And it doesn’t. Jessica tells Tyler she’s fine, that the night she called had been the result of a bad drug trip but it’s all cool now and her new friends are taking real good care of her and she’s happy and Tyler should just go home now and not worry about her anymore.

Tyler agrees and goes back to the home of Conor (Shane McRae, “The Following”), a friend of Jessica’s who has been worried about her too, where she’s been staying and cries it out before deciding on her next move. Going for a cigarette, though, it’s not a tough decision what to do. While talking on the rooftop of the cathedral, Jessica had been fiddling with Tyler’s cigs and has left her a message inside: the inner foil has been torn into the letters S T A Y.

Tyler isn’t going anywhere and now she’s even more determined to save her sister from the clutches of EvilCo.

I had read a less than favorable review of The Collective before watching the movie, so went into it not expecting a whole lot. But I was pleasantly surprised by how well made this movie was. Morgan’s direction and editing style reeks of “first film” and I wasn’t too far off–he has two other directing credits before this, having spent most of his time as an actor–but he’s got a definite style and vision he’s working with and, in my opinion, it helps speed things along, keeps the pace moving and the movie from getting bogged down in unnecessary blocking. Through a series of quick cuts, Morgan lets us see Tyler making her way from place to place without making us watch the actual process. It’s an effective technique for this movie.

Overton takes charge of the screen when she’s on it and it’s obvious from the beginning that this is HER movie. Luckily, she’s got the chops to carry the film and invest us in her character. Once things started getting dicey for the sisters, the mood changes and we get a bit of a Rosemary’s Baby paranoia vibe, which adds to the tension and gives the narrative an anxious feel. At every turn, I was expecting everyone they came into contact with to be in on it.

Filmed in New York, the duo of Morgan and Overton make the city’s vast size work for them, presenting this huge wide outside world, then focusing on these few small characters. It adds to the feeling of isolation Tyler feels as she’s trying to help her sister with every odd stacked against her.

Looking at the credits, The Collective has a very DIY feel to it: several of the same names appear in multiple slots. I wasn’t surprised to see Morgan’s in at least four, but was pleased to see Cinematographer was one of them. As the writer/director, he knows what he wants his movie to look like and, luckily, he’s got the skills to make it look good. Somehow, despite being an obviously low budget flick, he’s made it vibrant and beautiful. There’s always something interesting and colorful to look at.

Then there’s the music. Again, thank Morgan for it. His score is the perfect accompaniment, lending atmosphere and tension to an already atmospheric, tense story.

Now, all of this is not to say The Collective is a perfect movie. It’s a good one, definitely, much better than I was hoping for at first. But there are flaws. The Collective itself, the group Jessica is trying to get away from, didn’t feel like much of a collective. A gathering of people, sure, maybe half a dozen in total, but a collective? Nah, six people isn’t a collective. Sixty is a collective. But this group just didn’t feel all that menacing to me. You’ve got group leader Rost, who’s too busy greasing his hair back and sipping his scotch to be much of a leader. There’s Clare, who apparently thinks she’s The Baroness from GI Joe, without the accent. Brian, Jessica’s boyfriend and the one who brought her into the group, looks like he’d be more at home detailing his car and calling someone “bro” than following the apparently charismatic (?) Rost around. Then there was nameless man, nameless woman, and guy in glasses who was apparently the muscle of the group? Looked more like Jeremy Davies in a bad hat.

Second, with such a small group after them, I still don’t understand why Tyler didn’t just call the police. I mean, Jessica was a part of the group, she knew how few members there were (granted, she didn’t know about Conor–SPOILERS, but not really because I saw that twist coming a LONG time ago) so just call the cops at least until they can get out of the city, right?

These are just minor things, though, and didn’t keep me from enjoying the movie at all. The Collective is proof that, given the drive, the talent, and the opportunities, artists can easily take control of their own destiny and make something great. The gatekeepers serve their purpose, no doubt, but in the end it’s the audience that’s going to validate the efforts of the artist. The public will buy what we’re selling or it won’t, simple as that, so who needs a studio or a publisher or a record company telling someone that what they’re making isn’t good enough? If the movie gets good reviews and people seem to like it, then the efforts to bring that vision to the audience weren’t wasted. The Collective, for me, was worth the time and effort to get it made, and I’m glad I got to see it. I’ll definitely be there for the next Morgan/Overton movie.

–C. Dennis Moore

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