Review: The Collection
PLOT: The Collector is back, looking for new victims to terrorize, kidnap and make part of his twisted gallery. His latest victim, however, has people looking for her; a team of hired killers is on The Collector's trail, but they'll first have to navigate his horrific home turf to rescue the girl before she becomes a permanent item in the madman's collection.
REVIEW: The Collector is one hell of a multi-tasker, you really must hand it to him. The man has so many prisoners, traps, animals and pieces of property to look after, it's hard to believe he ever even gets to enjoy his “collection.” He should be writing self-help books for serial killers (“How to juggle all those terrified hostages and intricate weapons of murder while still finding time for you.”), but I suppose that would only add one more thing on his to-do list, and he really doesn't need that.
These are the thoughts you're likely to have during THE COLLECTION, which doesn't nearly have the smarts or ambition of its evil villain, but still contains enough energetic pop to be an acceptable time-killer (pun definitely intended). Quick, dirty and nasty, it is as undemanding a movie as you're likely to find, a brief whirl through a demented house of horrors with an admirable determination to get you in, get you bloody and get you out, all in less than 85 minutes.
The events of THE COLLECTION pick up soon after the first film, THE COLLECTOR, which concluded with the title psychopath's abduction of down on his luck thief Arkin O'Brien (Josh Stewart), who just happened to be unfortunate enough to stumble upon one of the Collector's intricately designed funhouses of torture and mayhem. As is the Collector's habit, he has brought his most recent kidnapping victim to the scene of his latest ingenious killing floor, in this case a rave-turned-slaughterhouse. The Collector has somehow, someway, installed a ginormous meat-thresher inside of an underground club (along with various other limb-piercing, bone crushing booby traps), which handily annihilates a crowd of hundreds. It's an amusing sequence if only because it alerts you to the fact that you'll have to suspend disbelief here even more considerably than during your average horror film. At least in the SAW series it eventually became clear that Jigsaw had the help of his disciples, who did much of the heavy lifting for him; the Collector is a one-man band with a seemingly limitless supply of intelligence, strength and money. If he weren't so evil he could be a superhero.
I digress (as mentioned, it's easy to get lost in wonderment over the Collector's incredible resourcefulness). The only survivor of the bloodbath is Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) a willful rich girl still haunted by the loss of her mother and a near-fatal car accident. Taken to the Collector's lair – an abandoned warehouse that acts as both a museum of horrors for the man's mangled trophies and a jerry-rigged minefield of stabbing and slicing implements – Elena is not willing to play the helpless victim, quickly escaping her confines and embarking on a tense mission to freedom.
Meanwhile, Arkin has also survived the rave from hell and found himself in a hospital, quickly accompanied by an associate (Lee Tergeson) of the rich girl's father. This fellow offers Arkin a simple deal: help him and a team of mercenaries find the Collector and rescue Elena and he'll be rewarded handsomely. Naturally, Arkin is not eager to go face to face with the maniac again, but the terms seem agreeable since he thinks he'll just be leading the team to the Collector's home base. (Don't even ask how Arkin knows where it is; it falls under the “extreme suspension of disbelief” category.) Once they find the lair, the team forces Arkin to lead them through its many hallways and rooms with the belief that he's best equipped to figure them out. But none of them are really prepared for what's inside this joint, because really, how could you be?
Director Marcus Dunstan and his writing partner Patrick Melton really waste no time getting to this point; the duo are understandably eager to cut to the chase and they gleefully dispense with pleasantries such as character development and logic. (We don't even get to know this oddball group of mercenaries; I doubt their names are ever mentioned.) But Dunstan and Melton know that logic isn't where their bread is buttered and no one has come to watch a character study: it's vicious sequences of death and bodily harm that the crowds are here to witness, and these are provided dutifully. That said, outside of the bravura scene in the club, THE COLLECTION is lacking in those truly memorable moments of “oh f*ck me!” cleverness that the best SAW movies provided. There are a handful of bloody kills, sure, but none stand out; we've seen our share of giant hooks in mouths and iron maiden impalements in the past. The first film felt like it tried a bit harder to shock us (melting cat, anyone?); here the guys are going through the motions a little bit. The sad truth is, if you want to startle an audience, you're going to have to go for broke.
For his part, The Collector remains an intriguing but not necessarily charismatic villain. Without an opportunity to emote or display any semblance of a personality, the character is still just a plot device without a motive. Of course you could make the same argument for a dozen movie slashers, but most of them are mindless and soulless, while this guy is obviously crafty purposefully, but we're not yet privy to what possesses the fellow to be so ridiculously elaborate when it comes to his traps. If he's so focused on collecting things, why go through such trouble? Unsurprisingly, at the end of THE COLLECTION, we're led to believe there may be another installment, and perhaps we'll get our answers then, but only the insanely devoted will really care.
There are also some half-hearted ideas at play that would have been quite compelling if developed with care. For instance, the Collector keeps a bevy of zombie-like captives in his prison – people who didn't meet his standards for display, but he keeps around anyway. When the intruders break in, the zombie people attack like dogs in a surreal sequence, but once they are dispatched the whole concept is wiped from memory, as if it wasn't brought up in the first place. Frustrating, because this weird addition could have added that little extra spark of inspiration to the story that is needed.
On the technical side, Dunstan has certainly assembled a very capable team to lift THE COLLECTION above the ho-hum screenplay: the production design, cinematography, make-up effects (practical effects here, no CG nonsense) and music are all surprisingly superb. The overall appearance and atmosphere of the Collector's home base is skin-crawling, as every inch of the place looks appropriately hideous, while composer Charlie Clouser (the SAW series) proves he is absolutely the best in the business when it comes to melodramatic horror scores.