Monday, October 11, 2010

Horror Movie Review: The Collector

The Collector is a 2009 effort written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan and directed by Dunstan. The two are responsible for writing Feast as well as Saw IV through the upcoming Saw 3D. There is a real mixed bag of good and suck in there and honestly it's pretty amazing that the same team is writing that string of Saw movies that constantly have to clean up their own mess, but that's another rant for another day.

When I started seeing ads for The Collector I assumed in the current culture of horror that we would be seeing a remake of the 1965 movie based on the novel. That story is a classic psychological tale and the book and film are great. The story also has the morbid twist of being claimed as inspiration for a number of murderers and serial killers. Regardless, the classic suspense story this was not. Instead we had a "trap and torture" movie that just sounded like some Saw writers ripped off Saw (it was originally planned as a Saw prequel) and as such the movie fell off my radar until I saw it was going to be on Cinemax and hit the record button.

IMDB plot overview:
When the Chase family moves to an isolated house in the middle of nowhere in Detroit, Arkin is hired to fix the windows and the doors. Later he meets his daughter and his wife that has a debt with dangerous sharks and needs money, but his week payment is not enough to pay her debts. Arkin plots to heist the safe of Michael Chase during the night to raise the necessary money. However, when he arrives in the house, he finds that a sadistic criminal has imprisoned the family and planted traps everywhere. Arkin seeks a way out of the deadly house to save his life.

After sitting through the full 90 minutes I'm left feeling conflicted. On one hand the movie is tense and good enough on the surface to warrant recommending. On the other hand there are just so many things that bother me about the movie. The loan shark thing comes out of nowhere and I guess the fact that the guy has a family and is supposed to be helping his wife is supposed to make him sympathetic, but he then goes to a guy he served jail-time with previously and discusses their plan to rob this family and make it clear that this is not the first time they've done this. So now Arkin is a thief who has done time and his wife is hitting up loan sharks.

Arkin's "business partner," Roy, also seems to exist for no reason. The two men argue over what percentage Arkin gets and when he gets his money for what feels like forever only to have it never matter again. The entire scene feels like it's only reason for being in the movie is to push the running time a bit.

Also annoying, the traps. I get why they exist in a movie sense, but the sheer amount of them makes no sense. It's the first "goof" listed on IMDB and it's also the biggest in my mind. "The Collector" already has to have had the family kidnapped to have the ability to set up such elaborate traps and if he already had them...why put up the traps? Did he KNOW someone was going to break in and decide to spend hours and hours setting up traps? It just makes no sense.

Since the killer is wearing a mask we can only assume that he'll be unmasked in some surprise twist. And while that does happen it doesn't actually matter because the reveal is more of a "it's that guy you kind of saw for a minute at one point early on" thing. It'd honestly been better to have left him as a John Doe. It'd have probably been the same had they simply left his motives there as well. The brief explanation for why he does what he does is so bland and meaningless that it distracts more than provides glue to the goings-on. The finale is stupid and plays out more like a desperate attempt to ensure that a sequel is lined up...and of course The Collection is planned as a sequel to be shot in 3D.

Things aren't all bad though. The traps are fun, there are a lot of tense scenes and no one is distractingly bad in their role. With some more care they could have put together a very solid horror film. While the majority of reviews seem to want to tie the movie to the "torture porn" sub-genre that does not seem to be the case in my eyes. The focus of torture porn is usually the torture scenes. Dunstan is actually quite restrained in how he holds back from showing the worst of any "torture."

Final Score: 2.5/5

The Collector is entirely watchable, capably acted and generally suspenseful. There are logic flaws galore and when you think about it you really feel like you've been treated like an idiot, but in terms of value as a pure horror film, it's entirely passable.

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