Reviewed by SeanD.
Starring Josh Stewart, Daniella Alonso, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernández
Directed by Marcus Dunstan
As a production journalist, I generally defer from actually reviewing film, as I find it a conflict of professional interest. The definition of “uncomfortable” can at times can be defined as the experience of attending a screening of a filmmaker’s latest effort – one which you’ve spend time on the set of – only to realize that the film lies flat, and then have to alert the filmmaker of such.
Priding myself on journalistic integrity and brutal honesty, I’ve found myself in the past in such an unappealing situation, which is why reviewing film is an exercise fraught with danger. Fortunately for me this isn’t the case with Marcus Dunstan’s feature directorial debut The Collector, which as the flick’s marketing campaign touts, is most certainly “The must see horror film of the summer.”
In a nutshell, the film follows the trials and tribulations of a thief who, in an attempt to pay off a loan shark badgering his ex-wife (and by proxy his daughter), takes a job burglarizing a rural manse, only to find that a masked killer has already entered the abode – one who is hard at work terrorizing its inhabitants with a series of brutal traps.
Scripted by Dunstan and long-time collaborator Patrick Melton (the duo behind Dimensions’ Feast franchise and Saw IV thru VI) and originally titled Midnight Man, The Collector (which releases wide Friday, July 31 via Freestyle Releasing) is a leap forward for the writers. Eschewing the endearing “splat-stick” qualities of the Feast films and unhindered by the sometimes convoluted narrative threads they inherited upon their Saw franchise inclusion, The Collector is a taut thrill ride, short on exposition, punctuated with cringe-inducing violence and rife with many a clever twist and turn.
Dunstan, in conjunction with cinematographer Brandon Cox and production designer Ermanno Di Febo-Orsini, imbues the flick with a visually stylized yet muted palette and an engaging nastiness that’s pure eye candy. Cameras soar over walls and through keyholes and lovingly caress the myriad death traps actor Josh (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) Stewart (as lead “Arkin,” the thief trapped by the masked “Collector”) must confront. Practical effects by Gary Tunnicliffe command attention as well and, while certainly wet enough to cause cheer in any genre fan, work as well to inspire empathy for Arkin, who finds himself determined to save the family he once intended to rob.
Other production values are equally solid (the visual effects provided by Dunstan’s personal assistant turned wuderkind VFX supervisior David Karlak are seamless), and the end result is a deliberately paced flick which elevates itself from the sub-genre of “torture porn” and ascends to Grand Guignol.
Produced by Fortress Features’ Brett Forbes and Patrick Rizzotti and Imaginarium Entertainment Group’s Julie Richardson, The Collector delivers in the casting department as well, which is rounded out by Daniella (The Hills Have Eyes 2) Alonso, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Karley (Pulse 2) Scott-Collins, Robert Wisdom and Madeline Zima (whose third act, unsuccessful kitchen countertop tryst with her boyfriend lends The Collector the horror genre’s requisite production value).
Juan Fernández as the titular character delivers too – his masked visage is downright unnerving, Machiavellian and at times entirely perverted, all the while eliciting curiosity as to what exactly his motives are. One thing’s for certain: His lack of empathy for household pets is on par with his complete disregard for the well-being of the flick’s protagonists. In The Collector nothing is sacred, and while the violence serves the narrative without being superfluous (as edited by Alex Luna and James Mastracco, the action is a crisp and jarring), Dunstan clearly also realizes that which horror fans desire: a leap from their seats.
4 out 5
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