Directed by Marcus Dunstan
The Collector received a bad rap when it was released, dismissed as little more than a Saw rip off that uses booby traps rather than “games” to kill the victims. Given that Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the two scribes behind four of the seven Saw films, penned and directed it, respectively, this really isn’t surprising. Despite staying within familiar territory, however, Melton and Dunstan created a film that, although not perfect, managed to inject enough clever twists and turns into a tired formula to create something exceedingly entertaining. Now with The Collection, they’re taking the story to the next level, with more action, more violence, and yes, more story.
Set during an undisclosed time after the events of the first film, The Collection follows Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), a beautiful young woman who cares for her father (Christopher McDonald), who was injured in a car wreck when she was a young girl. After her boyfriend ditches her one night, she sneaks out of the house and goes to an exclusive party with her friend. Unbeknownst to her, The Collector (Randall Archer) is there looking for someone new. After dispatching the party goers in horrific fashion, he stumbles upon Elena, who has just in turn stumbled upon and freed Arkin (Josh Stewart), the protagonist from the first film, from The Collector’s box. While Arkin manages to escape, Elena isn’t so lucky. Given his experience with The Collector, Arkin is blackmailed by a team of mercenaries led by a friend of Elena’s father named Lucello (Lee Tergesen) to seek out and help kill him before Elena becomes a part of his twisted collection.
Following in the tradition of Aliens and the recent [REC]2, The Collection forgoes brooding dread and a sinister antagonist in favor of excessive gore, violence, and hand-to-hand combat. Whereas the first film is given the Saw comparison, The Collection overtakes it in terms of sheer aggressiveness. As Arkin and the team of mercenaries make their way from room to room in an old abandoned hotel The Collector calls home, they are subjected to a number of traps, each of which vary in their ingenuity; some are simple – a narrow hallway filled with bear traps – while others involve massive contraptions that are triggered by hidden spikes in the floor. It’s Jigsaw on crack, except he’s actively doing the killing.
The quick pace of the film affords no time for boredom or real character development, though this isn’t the type film where that’s truly necessary. Ostensibly the protagonist, Arkin’s backstory is relegated to the back in favor of exploring The Collector’s motives for running what is essentially a house of horrors. It provides enough information to keep you hooked, while keeping it vague enough to allow further exploration should a third film be made. The Collector, his face obscured by his trademark mask, leaps into a new role as an aggressor rather than a watcher; given the intrusion on his excessively booby-trapped home, it becomes necessary for him to engage them face to face.
It’s here where the flaws of the film poke through the exciting mess of violence and ingenuity; suspension of disbelief is integral to the enjoyment of horror, but when the entirety of a movie relies on this to serve its story, it tends to take away from one’s overall enjoyment of the film. From a technical perspective, Dunstan’s direction is capable, though his handling of fight scenes was made near-nauseating thanks to the rapid fire editing of Saw VI and VII director Kevin Greutert. Clever stylistic choices, especially one scene involving a dark room with a flickering light, allow Dunstan to recall the sense of dread that made the first film so enjoyable.
The Collection is a film best enjoyed by those who love their gore flicks and relish in the ingenuity and sadistic nature of the myriad traps created by The Collector. It’s a mix of fun and stupid that should appease fans of the first film, but with its similarities to Saw, it’s certainly going to be a hard sell.
3 out of 5