Written by: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Directed by: Marcus Dunston
Starring: Josh Stewart, Karley Scott Collins, and Juan Fernandez
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"A thief broke into this house...but someone worse was already inside."
About a month ago, buzz began building about a new horror film coming from Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the screenwriting duo behind Saw IV, Saw V, and the upcoming Saw VI. As it turns out, the film was initially pitched as a prequel to the popular series; however, when the Saw producers nixed that idea, Melton and Dunston reworked their script into The Collector, with the latter also assuming directorial duties. The duo's two Saw films haven't lit the world on fire, plus it seems as though The Collector has been unceremoniously dumped into theaters with little promotion; having been a bit starved for some theatrical horror action, I recently checked it out despite these warning signs.
By day, Arkin is a normal handyman with a young daughter. By night, he's a thief desperately attempting to stave off loan sharks on behalf of his ex-wife. Luckily (or perhaps not), Arkin's most recent employer is a jeweler who's about to go on a family vacation. Desperate, Arkin breaks in to secure a valuable diamond; however, he soon finds out he's not alone, as a homicidal, knife-wielding maniac has rigged the house full of death traps and is terrorizing the family for no apparent reason. Trapped inside, Arkin must not only escape, but also protect the family's youngest daughter who has managed to hide herself from the masked madman.
Once the film manages to crank up, it's easy to see the influence of Saw all over this one, and one can easily see how the film began as a prequel to that film. Visually, the film has the same faux-grimy look and even a similar exaggerated color scheme that's heavy on a puke-green hue at times. Obviously, the death traps are very reminiscent of Saw, and there's one moment where I thought Arkin had literally walked onto the set of Saw II's opening scene. However, unlike Saw, there's really no method behind the madness; while that series gets a lot of (warranted) attention for its unrelenting violence, there's usually an underlying theme or message behind it. Don't expect the same from The Collector, as it simply beats you over the head and leaves you with more questions than answers. Perhaps the most pressing issue is how exactly this guy manages to rig an entire house full of traps in a matter of hours, but I guess the movie is just expecting you to suspend such disbelief and simply roll with it.
This is one of the film's greatest flaws: by the end, you're left wondering just exactly what the point was. While there have been some good films detailing banal, random acts of violence (like The Strangers or Eden Lake), The Collector doesn't seem to be content to do just this, as it does provide a base attempt at explaining who "The Collector" is. However, it doesn't get much further than the fact that "he keeps bodies he likes," and apparently only uses them as bait for his next victims. Thus, the film almost approaches a point, but it ultimately just feels a bit empty, despite a decent setup (the villain stuffs his "bait" into a box for his next round of victims to find). I suppose it still works on the level of pointless, random violence, but it seems like the film wants to be more.
Furthermore, even though the film is less than 90 minutes long and seemingly full of action, most of the film feels like it's bogged down in a mire and never feels appropriately energetic. The film's visual similarity to Saw pretty much stops at the basic level, as The Collector doesn't possess that series' kinetic, energetic approach. There's a couple of instances where we see a bit of that hyper-editing style, but, for the most part, this one is more of a slow build, and while there are a few suspenseful sequences, the film just never seems to get going. The score is partly to blame, as it's essentially the same generic, industrial-type music that's populated horror films in recent years and brings little tension to the film.
Of course, the main attraction for this film is the gore, and it delivers some good, if unremarkable splatter that feels tired in the wake of Saw and Hostel. After you've seen those, The Collector feels a bit superfluous, but it's not like the genre is full of films that are riding the coattails of their superior predecessors. I've also seen some online promotion for the film suggesting that the villain might become horror's next icon, but I'm not totally convinced, as he's visually reminiscent of the killer from The Toolbox Murders with no depth. I suppose a sequel could add the needed depth to set him apart and expand upon the aforementioned interesting setup.
That said, this one's not necessarily a bad film--just a mediocre one that's bordering on being something more interesting. A couple of gore scenes will hold your interest, and Josh Stewart's performance as the stereotypical "good person who does bad things" is solid enough. Overall, it's a decent directorial debut for Dunstan, who has obviously been influenced by Saw, so much so that he seems a bit apprehensive to branch out and set it far enough apart from that series. Still, this one's a decent time-waster that doesn't wear out its welcome. I don't regret the $6.50 spent on it, and, better yet, you can pay half that when it hits home video and simply Rent it!
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