The Collector

Director    Marcus Dunstan
Starring    Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke. Andrea Roth, Madeline Zima
Release    31 JUL 2009 (US) 25 JUN (UK)    Certificate 18
3 stars


25th June 2010

Not content with continuing the deranged adventures of Jigsaw in the last three Saw movies, sick filmmakers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have upped their output with this new instalment of torture porn. As expected, its simple premise and easily disposable characters are all just an excuse to show a series of imaginative executions in as much explicit detail as possible. It's what the kids are into these days.

Lead character Arkin (Stewart) starts the film as a hard-working handyman fixing up some last-minute security precautions for a trusting family who are about to embark on vacation, but thanks to some nervous and shameful glances, we know that all is not as it seems. After a hefty amount of back story, he breaks into the house in order to steal a large jewel from the family safe. Unfortunately, his attempted robbery is ruined by a madman already inside the home who has constructed a series of Rube Goldberg-type booby traps in every room while he goes about capturing and torturing the family members. What are the chances, eh? And so, now locked inside, Arkin attempts to avoid the traps and save the family without the Collector seeing him.

In the production notes that accompanied the screening of this film, Melton and Dunstan are quoted as saying that they wanted to show "Mr Bad and Mr Worse coming face to face", which sounds like an interesting concept except Arkin never comes across as 'Mr Bad'. In the first tension-building half hour, it is made painstakingly clear that he is only a reluctant thief, stealing the jewel to help pay off his ex-wife's debt and therefore keep his daughter safe from loan sharks.

[gallery]In fact, one of the more dubious aspects of this film is that Arkin is just too good. While his near superhuman resourcefulness (stemming from a most unlikely calmness considering the circumstances he finds himself in) makes him a likable character, his determination to save each family member, some of whom have already been horribly disfigured, will leave you thinking "Just get the hell out of there, you moron!". I'm not saying his actions aren't admirable, but by the time Arkin spends a nerve-biting scene trying to rescue the family cat from some kind of acidic glue, all while the titular killer slowly walks towards the room, it becomes laughable.

Then there's the scenario itself. While the booby traps are obviously the biggest selling point of this film, providing an array of stomach-churning, leg-crossing moments of horrific gore, you have to wonder at their purpose. If the Collector has already captured and begun torturing his prey, and he isn't aware of Arkin's presence in the house, why plant these creative death-traps in the first place, some of which must have taken hours to set up? Throughout the movie, the only explanation I could come up with for anyone positioning elaborate, lethal booby traps around the house is if the Collector's true identity is a grown-up, now-insane, Kevin McCallister from Home Alone.

Of course, we needn't be concerning ourselves with little things like plot holes, when the only question we should be asking is: where will the next lot of blood-n-guts come from? In this respect, the movie delivers magnificently, with stand-out scenes including one poor sap falling flat-out on a floor covered in bear traps, and an eyes-averting moment that sees the killer perform impromptu dentistry with a hammer and chisel. And once these scenes start, they pretty much continue at a gauge 10 on the EliRothometer of Wrong until the credits roll.

While the last few frames seem like an unlikely place to end the story, they help to set this film up as the first instalment of a new horror franchise, with more Collector films no doubt on the horizon, no matter how welcome they may be. In fact, in true torture-porn spirit, if this movie doesn't spawn at least two sequels, I'll dig toothpicks under my fingernails and eat my own eyelids*.

*Not legally binding

More:  The Collector  Saw
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