PLOT: Ex-con Arkin (Josh Stewart) is in a bind: he needs to get his wife a ton of cash before midnight before loan sharks come for her. Having an intimate knowledge of burglary, Arkin breaks into a wealthy couple's new home, hoping to attain a valuable jewel from within. Only problem is that someone else has gotten there first, capturing the family, and rigging the house with dozens of dangerous booby traps. Now trapped inside, Arkin has to outsmart "The Collector", steal the jewel, and rescue the family before midnight.
REVIEW: It's shame for THE COLLECTOR that the SAW films exist; otherwise it wouldn't seem like such a shameless attempt to capitalize on their success. Then again, without the SAW films - and screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton's participation in them - THE COLLECTOR (which marks the directorial debut of Dunston) would likely not exist. Of course, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, as the movie brings almost nothing new to the table (the horror table!!), but it's also not without its own particular, grungy charm. It made me wince once or twice, and a couple times I cringed while murmuring "ohh ewww" - the SAW flicks certainly lost their ability to do that to me a few films ago. Then again, THE COLLECTOR is definitely better than those most recent entries, which is faint praise, I know, but it's a start.
While more interested in suspense than the SAW series (which, at this point we can admit, is about as far from genuinely scary as you can get), Dunstan's film is still firmly a part of what the detractors call the "torture porn" genre, showcasing a few nasty scenes of skin-ripping, flesh-impaling, and - in one laughably deranged sequence - cat-melting (yes, don't bring your fervent cat lover to this one, fellas). But I can't help but admit that for the numerous times I was reminded of SAW, I was always glad I didn't have to listen to one of Jigsaw's pretentious, tiresome scoldings ("Hello Dan. You've gone through life blatantly not paying your parking tickets..."). THE COLLECTOR's villain isn't interested in judgment; he's just a sick torturer whom captures people in a round-about way. The rigging of booby traps throughout the house is, for all intents and purposes, unnecessary when you get right down to it. It remains to be seen whether or not he has a detailed back story to elaborate upon his twisted hobby (I highly doubt it's spoiling anything to suggest that there are, potentially, more COLLECTOR stories in our future); for now he remains just a weird dude with a lot of time on his hands.
While not as technically sturdy as the SAW films, THE COLLECTOR has a certain sleekness, and Dunstan is for the most part a competent helmer (although the layout and size of the house seems to change periodically, to suit the whims of the given sequence). The acting is... natural, I guess. All most of the performers have to do is act terrified, scream, and faint dead away. Stewart oozes sleaziness at first (a nice bit of misdirection on the movie's part as it seems to be setting up Arkin as the real villain), but eventually gains our sympathy as the reluctant protagonist.
All things considered, THE COLLECTOR is not going to blow anybody away, but it provides a decent diversion for the horror crowd - the gruesome money shots elicit their intended reactions, and that's the least you can ask for with a flick like this... Perhaps with a little more focus - and logic - the next time around, Dunstan and Melton can improve upon a concept (and villain) that just seems like SAW-LITE.