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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Collector (2009) review


Josh Stewart (Arkin), Michael Reilly Burke (Michael), Andrea Roth (Victoria), Juan Fernandez (The Collector), Karley Scott Collins (Hannah), Daniella Alonso (Lisa), Haley Pullos (Cindy)

Directed by Marcus Dunstan

"He...he collects people...he only kills people that he doesn't'll never leave this house alive..."

Michael Reilly Burke (left) played a nasty serial killer in the grim TED BUNDY (2002)

Arkin, a housing contractor desperate for money to pay off his wife's debt to a loan shark breaks into the home of his wealthy employer. Believing the family to have left on vacation, Arkin soon realizes the family has never left and have been taken hostage by a sadistic killer. With the home laced with lethal and deadly traps, Arkin attempts to get both the remaining survivors and himself out of the house alive and away from the cruel Collector.

Director Dunstan's first effort after writing duties on the FEAST films and half of the SAW (and counting) franchise, is this overlooked "gem" from late last year. Dunstan rarely pulls any punches instead pounding the viewer in the face till they're numb from the reprehensible cruelty unspooling onscreen. Oddly enough, THE COLLECTOR is a slight step up from the SAW movies, a series this film will no doubt be compared to in addition to the two HOSTEL movies. For me, it bears more resemblance to the horrid, execrable mess that is NINE DEAD (2010).

Although little is learned about The Collector, or what exactly Arkin's wife owes money for (Drugs, possibly?), much time is spent with the character and Stewart gives this dishonest and shady, but ultimately noble character a great deal of dignity towards the end of the movie. He has a deadline of midnight to get the money to the thugs who are holding his family hostage.

At one point, he manages to escape the house, but notices the little girl, Hannah, looking at him through a window. He then goes back inside the charnel house of death traps to save the little girl. Earlier in the film, Arkin shares a scene with the girl when she asks him to sit in on a faux tea party she is having. This bit of exposition carries relevance as Arkin relates Hannah with his own little girl waiting for him at home.

People may levy a lot of negatives at the film considering next to nothing is learned of the titular villain other than he is incredibly vile and overwhelmingly sophisticated. There are clues (what with all the symbolic use of the various creepy crawlies) that The Collector is possibly an exterminator. One of the films many unanswered questions is why the killer utilizes the methods by which he catches his prey. A man kept inside a large trunk states at one point to Arkin that he is the "bait". One of the characters finds himself in a similar trunk during the closing scene, presumably "bait" for another stalk and kill session for The Collector.

Arkin meets with the loan shark about paying back his wife's debt

This isn't the first horror movie to have a killer whose modus operandi is never least until the sequel. Dunstan has recently been commissioned to pen a sequel wherein all those queries shall be answered. The film also has a fascinating preoccupation with various insects such as Wasps, spiders and cockroaches. These creatures are allusions to the storyline and how things play out. It's an insightful addition to a script filled with all manner of gratuitous and distasteful nastiness that overtakes the film about 30 minutes in. One of the deleted scenes has Roy, the loan shark (doing a good Ving Rhames impersonation), detailing to Arkin a terrible method of torture by a certain species of wasp. This cut scene should have been left in as it comes into play towards the end of the movie.

Arkin finds some gruesome games played by THE COLLECTOR

The gore in this movie, while not always extremely graphic, is suitably gruesome and plentiful. Some of The Collector's means of torture are quite surprising and he's a shockingly thorough and ingenious person. During the finale (the film has several "fake" endings, actually) the tables are briefly turned on The Collector, but Arkin doesn't keep the upper hand long. Amazingly, if the utter downbeat tone wasn't already beating you senseless, Dunstan even includes a scene of (fake) animal violence that is right deplorable. The traps are wildly creative in their complexity.

A character is tortured by having some teeth removed

Through it all, I couldn't help but be reminded of Chang Cheh's latter period Shaw Wuxia movie, HOUSE OF TRAPS from 1982, which featured a death trap laden pagoda with which to snare those that stepped inside. Another aspect of the film that adds a lot to the seething air of uneasyness is the soundtrack. It almost becomes a character in itself and unsettles the viewer just as much as the onscreen carnage.

I'm rarely ever high on newer horror pictures (especially American ones). I like them, but few have much in the way of staying power and cannot compare with the classics of old. However, Dunstan's movie is one of those few new horrors that will surprise you. It has enough fresh ingredients and a well drawn lead and mysteriously disturbing villain to attract a wider audience on video than it received theatrically.

This review is representative of the Uni Distribution Corporation DVD


Aylmer said...

Just wanted to say I dig your blog, a good eclectic mix of films. And at the top: Sid Haig in Galaxy of Terror! One of my faves!

Jack Veasey said...

Excellent review. The film sounds fascinating, although I don't know that I'll see it because of the animal violence. I'm not squeamish about seeing people get skewered, but don't ruffle the cat's fur!

venoms5 said...

@ Aylmer: Thanks, a lot, man! I frequently change out the pic at the top on a regular basis, but since GALAXY OF TERROR is finally getting a R1 DVD release in July along with FORBIDDEN WORLD (both their European DVD releases are reviewed here), I thought I'd put one up there. GALAXY is one of my favorite movies of all time, too, and Sid is awesome in it.

@ Jack: Thanks for your remarks. It helps that the cat scene is fake, but it was a bit unexpected and added to the whole mean spirited nature of it all.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I was certain that this was getting bad reviews all around the web, but I am now all in again. will be netflixing it to make sure I like it before I make the kill, I was just worried that the traps would make it too over the top and unbelievable.

venoms5 said...

The traps are no where as over the top as what is seen in the SAW movies, imo. They are elaborate, but nothing that couldn't be rigged up by frequent trips to the hardware store. Many of them are your "basic" wires attached to pulley's rigging various bladed implements, or even simpler ones like a room full of bear traps.

It's definitely a mean and nasty little horror movie which me and the gf wanted to see in the theater. I liked it and anticipate the sequel.

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