The Collector, 2009.
Directed by Marcus Dunstan.
Starring Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Karley Scott Collins and Juan Fernández.
An ex-con aims to repay a debt to his ex-wife by robbing his new employer’s country home only to discover a second criminal known as “The Collector” has imprisoned the family and rigged the property with a series of deadly traps…
Saw meets Home Alone.
Back in 2004, I went to go and see a low budget psychological horror called Saw, a film that had me on the edge of my seat and gripped me all the way up to its fantastic climax. Little did I know as I walked out of that cinema that I would spend the next 6 years of my life watching that idea degenerate into turgid soft core snuff torture porn. As the series went on, it faced competition from Eli Roth’s Hostel and felt that it needed to “one up it” to keep in the game. The pair of them have made a load of terrible films that are devoid of plot and substance and are just flat out soulless gore fests. So when I discovered that I would be going to see The Collector, a film by the writers of the last 3 Saw films (and the upcoming 7th instalment), I had very low expectations.
Imagine my surprise when I left that cinema having quite enjoyed the film.
The film focuses itself on the oddly named Arkin (Josh Stewart) who, in order to help his wife from loan sharks, decides to rob the house of a jewel merchant played by Michael Reilly Burke who should be on holiday with his family. Unfortunately for Arkin, and the family, someone else got there first. A masked maniac who goes by the moniker of “The Collector”. Arkin discovers that the family didn’t go on holiday – they are chained up and are being tortured in the basement. Their youngest daughter is lost in the house, the eldest daughter isn’t aware of what’s going on and the house is filled with elaborate traps intended for killing. Arkin now faces a race against time to not only save the family from this masked man’s evil clutches, but also to steal from the family so he can save his own.
This film is more than just torture porn. It has an intriguing premise, some wonderfully amoral characters and some phenomenally orchestrated set pieces. The acting is a lot better than can be expected of this sort of film and Marcus Dunstan, for a first time director, does a great job of keeping the tension ramped up and in a high gear – something that is missing from most modern day horror films. But disappointingly, the film is not without its flaws.
The film has plot holes the size of a life sized photo of the moon that has been enlarged. The biggest of which unfortunately falls in the shape of The Collector’s booby traps. Cool though they may be, it’s rather unbelievable and inconceivable that he could set the traps up within the few hours in between Arkin leaving the house and returning. The Collector’s character motivations are left very ambiguous and no reasons are given behind his attack. This can sometimes work in a film’s favour, but here it just feels a weak and unconvincing. There is also a gapping plot hole as to why the family didn’t go on holiday and why the daughter went out – but I don’t have enough time to go into every inconsistency. It’s a bit buggy in places and kind of detracts away from the otherwise great moments.
The other major problem I had with the film came in the last 20-25 minutes of the film. After an hour or so of great tension filled gory horror fun, the film nose dived into nothing more than a poor man’s Hostel. Gone was the tension, gone was the cleverly implemented horror set pieces, all that remained was a flat, limp and rushed mess. Just after I sang its praises for being more than just a torture porn film, it took the giant leap into the territory I hoped it wouldn’t.
Here’s my issues with these types of films. With each film having to go one step further than its predecessor, there’s going to come to a point where you’ll hit a brick wall. The easiest way to describe this is to compare it to the hardcore matches in professional wrestling. One day many years ago, two wrestlers did a match where one of the guys hits the other guy with a chair. But when the audience saw chair shots over and over again it lost its impact. So they slammed each other through tables. When that died down, you slam them into thumbtacks. When that runs out of steam, you set them on fire or slam them on broken glass or cut them with barbed wire. But when the crowd stop reacting to that, where do you go next?
The torture porn horror sub genre is suffering from the same problem. There were parts of The Collector that got no reaction from the audience, myself in particular, because we’d either seen it all before or it wasn’t as hardcore as something from the previous Saw films. There was a scene in the film in which The Collector sews a woman’s mouth shut which didn’t even raise a murmur from the film viewers. Don’t get me wrong, the film does have some innovative gruesome deaths that will test the stomachs of even the most hardened horror veteran, but you know that the next film is going to have to raise the bar to get those reactions again. But what if they can’t?
The Collector is ¾ of a great film with a disappointing flat ending. It will make back the money that was spent on it and it will probably spawn off a load of sequels which will probably make their money back too. But I do have my reservations about the longevity of this niche market.
Watch the trailer here.
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