Directed by Marcus Dunstan
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
I always feel a bit of nagging trepidation when it comes to viewing a new film from the writing duo of Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. Now, this reviewer doesn’t intend to rake the screenwriters over the coals, as I’m sure they’re nice guys and have been responsible for some good movies. But the quality of their work seems to vary wildly with each and every outing they make within our favorite genre.
Examples? They wrote the raucous, utterly kickass creature feature Feast. But then, they also wrote its disappointing first sequel and the atrocious third installment of that franchise. Picking up where series writer/co-creator Leigh Whannell left off, Dunstan and Melton penned all of the subsequent sequels to the Saw franchise – some being quite good (others being Saw V and Saw 3D, the latter being the single worst ending a once-promising film series ever had). And while I really enjoyed their gritty, grisly horror pic The Collector, I absolutely abhorred Piranha 3DD, a movie so bad I considered it one of 2012’s worst offerings. This consistently hit-and-miss track record left me more than a little nervous for their newest feature, a Collector sequel titled, cleverly enough, The Collection. But while the film does have its flaws, it’s a superior sequel which stands as one of the pair’s strongest efforts thus far.
Picking up some time after the first film ended, The Collection finds poor thief and Collector protagonist Arkin O’Brien (Stewart) still in the hands of the villainous serial killer The Collector (played this time ‘round by a beefier Archer). Immediately following a gory (and rather stunning) nightclub massacre, Arkin escapes The Collector’s grip, only to witness the abduction of poor young clubgoer Elena (Fitzpatrick). Elena’s wealthy father responds to his daughter’s kidnapping by sending his right-hand man Lucello (Tergesen) and a team of mercs after the murderer, who drag Arkin and his knowledge about The Collector along for the ride. What follows is a descent into a nightmarish world – a long-abandoned hotel full of atrocities and potential threats, including numerous booby traps, fierce dogs, creepy-crawlies, and zombies (yes, zombies – well, victims drugged up to the point of madness and hyperviolence, anyway), to say nothing of the physically imposing and well-armed Collector himself. One by one, the team members fall as Arkin and Lucello make their way closer to Elena, even as she navigates The Collector’s lair to free herself from his grasp. These two story threads eventually converge and culminate in a fiery, blood-soaked, and surprisingly emotional finale…right before a final sequence that stands as one of the more satisfying denouements in recent genre flick memory.
In enlarging their story’s scale for this second trip to The Collector’s world, Melton and Dunstan have proven that they’re more than capable of writing some kickass action sequences, while displaying that Dunstan’s skill behind the camera has grown by leaps and bounds. His direction here is far more confident than his work in The Collector, as he delivers a beautiful looking movie full of tension, scares, and energy. If he continues to improve like this with each outing, I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The acting, too, is mostly solid all across the board (especially from the principals). As with the original film, Josh Stewart proves to be an unconventional and very likeable lead, more than able to carry the bulk of the film on his shoulders. Lee Tergesen is great as always (it mystifies me why the man doesn’t get more work), while Christopher McDonald puts in a good performance in the brief amount of time he has onscreen. And as the film’s co-lead, relative newcomer Emma Fitzpatrick makes for a compelling presence, skillfully portraying her character’s strength and vulnerability in equal measure (often all at once). Between starring in this and her brilliant Anne Hathaway/Oscar spoof, I predict it won’t be long before this talented actress is a bona fide star.
Sam McCurdy’s fine cinematography and Graham Walker’s gruesome/gorgeous (…gruegeous?) production design combine to give this (presumably) low budget affair a large scale feel, while Saw veteran Charlie Clouser’s score keeps the proceedings both taut and poignant. So while the film does have its occasional missteps (some dodgy dialogue, some arcs that never fully pay off, some acting that doesn’t quite work), The Collection still stands as an engaging, supremely entertaining post-torture porn slasher than harkens back more to the 80s and 90s than more recent genre fare. It’s well worth a look.
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release of The Collection is impressive, with a fine image, great sound, and a decent…erm, collection of bonus features. The 1080p picture is just fantastic, with inky blacks and gorgeous hues, looking razor-fine throughout. Honestly, I think the film looks better on disc here than it did in the digital cinema I first caught the movie in. And the sound design is superb, fully immersive with loads of surround detail. A great presentation for a great flick.
Extras-wise, we get a feature-length commentary with Dunstan and Melton, which is actually one of the better commentaries I’ve listened to in a while. Their chat is funny, engaging, and informative; it’s well worth your time if you’re a fan of the film. There are also three deleted scenes – one featuring an alternate (and more surprising) death, another that’s brief and rather pointless, and the final one being a follow-up to the film’s ending (which really should’ve stayed put). In addition, there are five featurettes which cover various aspects of the film’s production (including a look at the makeup and visual effects, production design, and stunts). And, fortunately, Lionsgate has included the theatrical trailer as well (thanks gang, always appreciated).
So if you were a fan of The Collector, do be sure to check out this fantastic sequel. If you weren’t so much of a fan, or if you’ve never seen it, go ahead and give this superior and relatively standalone entry a shot. In the meantime I’ll continue to anxiously await the third installment.
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5