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The Collingswood Story (Cauldron Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Collingswood Story (Cauldron Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Cauldron Films
    Released on: October 5th, 2021.
    Director: Mike Costanza
    Cast: Stephanie Dees, Johnny Burton, Diane Behrens, Grant Edmonds, Glenn Hoffner
    Year: 2002
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    The Collingswood Story - Movie Review:

    Mike Costanza's 2002 film, The Collingswood Story, starts on the twenty-first birthday of a young woman named Rebecca (Stephanie Dees). She's spending the night chatting with her boyfriend John (Johnny Burton) on their new web cams that he's bought so that they can stay in touch while she's out of town at University in Collingswood, New Jersey.

    The couple spends some time clowning around online together until John decides that they should visit an online psychic named Vera Madeline (Diane Behrens), who, when she encounters Rebecca, tells her that she's very perceptive and sensitive to certain issues. Vera insists that she needs to talk to her some more. Rebecca gets weirded out by Vera and hangs up on her, but when John dials back in he finds that there's a history of murder surrounding the town and, in particular, the house that Rebecca is renting a room in, that dates back centuries.

    As it happens, there's been a cult based in the town for a while now and from time to time its members have killed quite a few people over the years in some grisly ritualistic practices. Most recently, a few years back a Judge drowned his wife and two kids and then killed himself, right in Rebecca's bathroom.

    Rebecca sets out to investigate things on her end and does some snooping around the house and the town. While this is going on, John, with some help from his friend Billy (Grant Edmunds), does his best to talk to Vera and find out more online, where she reveals to him that Rebecca is in some serious danger and may already be under the influence of some very evil spirits. She warns him that he needs to stay far away, but John obviously wants to help his girlfriend and won't have any of that. Things get intensely freaky from here on in.

    Seeing as the web cam is the way the two lead characters communicate, that's how 99% of the movie is presented. Seeing this for the first time you might be a little apprehensive at first, as the beginning of the movie is a bit cheesy and some of the dialogue is somewhat stilted and awkward. That said, once you make it through the first half, the movie really picks up and I'm not ashamed to admit that the first time I watched the film, the last half hour of the film scared the crap out of me. Now, almost twenty years later, yes, some of the film's impact has diminished and there have been quite a few other horror movies that have used webcams as a storytelling device since this picture came out, but it still works pretty well despite this.

    At times the movie might feel a bit derivative of the Blair Witch Project (and to a lesser extent, The Ring), with its POV camera work and 'reality show' feel via the streaming video. This was done, I'm sure, to help keep the film's budget low, but it does give it an engrossing quality that really pulls you in towards the finale. The acting is pretty decent here as well, with all three of the main players doing a good job and handling the material believably enough. As such, almost two decades since it was made, The Collingswood Story is still a movie that is definitely worth checking out.

    The Collingswood Story - Blu-ray Review:

    Cauldron Films brings The Collingswood Story to Blu-ray 'newly remastered from the original source tapes by writer/director Mike Costanza' with the AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taking up 20GBS of space on the 25GB disc. Video quality here is limited by the source material, obviously, but the transfer is pretty solid when you take that into account. Detail isn't going to floor you but it does easily surpass the old DVD release and we get much better compression here as well. Colors look decent, as do skin tones and black levels. Again, not reference quality by any stretch but quite a nice upgrade over what we've had in the past for this movie in terms of picture quality.

    The 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo audio, available with optional English subtitles, sounds fine here. Levels are balanced well enough and there isn't much in the way of hiss or distortion to complain about. Again, the limitations of the source material do factor into the equation here, but overall, given the origins of the movie, the audio is more than decent.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary from Mike Costanza. He does a great job of explaining how limited internet conferencing technology was when he made the film before then going on to why he opens the film with a segment from the ending of the picture, where some of the imagery used in the film comes from, the locations used in the picture, creating the title effects sequence in the first version of After Effects, how the video conferencing sequences were shot, some of the subtleties that are worked into the picture, his attempts to combine what was then modern technology with a horror film, and who he collaborated with on the film. It's a good talk, lots of information in here and Costanza has a lot to stay about the making of the movie.

    Collingswood: Behind The Story is a fourteen minute featurette. This piece interviews Mike Costanza and Stephanie Dees and it covers Costanza's background in film and art, casting the picture, why he decided to make a horror movie, some of the real life events that inspired the film, the films that influenced his work on this picture, completing the film on a low budget and with a single camera, shooting the film in seven days, editing the picture and more. There's some audition footage, behind the scenes stills and footage included in here as well.

    The five minute Stephanie Dees Interview Fearless Tales Film Festival featurette is an interview that Calum Waddell did with the film's lead actress where she talks about her appearance in Halloween IV as a kid, her thoughts on horror movies, some of the other projects that she's been in, what it was like shooting The Collingswood story, the eeriness of some of the locations used, what it was like on the set and her thoughts on the movie.

    The Johnny Burton Grant Edmonds Cast Interviews 2006 featurette is a ten minute piece that sees the two actors discuss the movie that the story tells, their characters, how they got involved in the film, the shooting style used in the movie, the cameras used and more.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a Continuity/Set Polaroids image gallery, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options. This release also comes packaged with some reversible cover art and a postcard insert.

    The Collingswood Story - The Final Word:

    The Collingswood Story rises above a lot of other low budget horror films of its day and comes out on top as an imperfect but very effective chiller. Cauldron Films has done a nice job bringing this to Blu-ray with a presentation that offers a solid upgrade over the old DVD release and a nice selection of extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized The The Collingswood Story Blu-ray screen caps!





























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