Written by: Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
Starring: Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick and Lee Tergesen
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Every great collector has a vision.
Of all the horror movies from recent years, I wouldnít have guessed that The Collector would be sequelized. It came and went with little fanfare, so when Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton quickly announced a sequel, I was a little skeptical. Three years later, The Collection has arrived and proven why Iím sitting here while other people make these sort of decisions in Hollywood; not only were Dunstan and Melton able to scrap together a follow-up, but the result is the rare sequel that unquestionably improves upon the original.
A second-rate Saw riff (mostly because it started life as a Saw prequel), The Collector introduced a title character with a penchant for murdering people in elaborate ways before trapping a victim in a giant box. When The Collection opens, The Collectorís been at his thing for a while, having claimed about fifty victims and befuddling law enforcement. His latest opus occurs at an industrial rave party, where he releases Arkin (Josh Stewart, returning from the original) from captivity and sets off a chain of carnage that ensnares Elena Peters (Emma Fitzpatrick), a local girl with a rich father (Chris McDonald, making a glorified cameo). After her abduction, he sends out his right hand man (Lee Tergesen) and a small task force to retrieve her with the help of Arkin, who is the only man to ever escape The Collectorís demented compound.
Dunstan and Melton wonít be able to shed the comparisons to Saw here since The Collection borrows heavily from the sequels, particularly those that revolved around Jigsawís houses of traps (so most of Ďem, I guess). To their credit, though, Dunstan and Melton turbo-charge the proceedings here--this is what it would look like if The Collector had a baby with the batshit insanity that propelled Saw 3D. Such comparisons might be cringe-worthy to some, but The Collection is gleefully nuts and never blinks an eye after hurtling out of the gate like a tweaker on a high. The opening credits bustle with more cool, energetic style than the entire original film did; whereas The Collector was an almost comatose slash and stalk flick that felt perfunctory a few years ago, The Collection is a wildly energetic, cranked-up splatter-fest that deals in absurdity without so much as even casting a glance at the audience.
The film announces its intentions pretty quickly, as it offs dozens of extras during the insane rave sequence by slicing, dicing, smashing, and crushing them to death. Between the chaos and the absurd planning of The Collector, it glimpses what a Final Destination disaster sequence would look like if it were filtered through the Saw aesthetic. The big difference here is that the disaster isnít a figment of anyoneís imagination that allows them to save their buddies, so over half the characters that have just been introduced end up painting the walls with their guts. As far as opening gambits go, this oneís pretty ballsy that almost serves as a James Bond-style prologue for The Collector and reveals that this guy is even more homicidally ambitious than previously thought. This massacre makes his little home invasion in the original seem pretty quaint by comparison.
From there, things settle down a bit, but the movieís no less cock-eyed and takes every opportunity to introduce some silly concept, such as Arkinís self-inflected scar map that helps the team snuff out The Collectorís hideout in a massive abandoned hotel. Most of the film is situated here, so the sequel is literally bigger than its predecessor. With so much space to poke around in, the script concocts all sorts of madness; while The Collection mostly feels like an exercise in devising elaborate Jigsaw-esque traps without much of a plot connecting them, thereís a ruthless sense of momentum as the characters try to escape this ridiculous lair. Its overall look is Jigsaw chic, full of computer monitors, grime, and nutty deathtraps, only it looks like he took up residence in the Sawyer clanís underground abode from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 since itís lined with corpses and other decaying remains. When heís not engaging in gross interior decoration, heís showing why they call him The Collector, as we finally see what he does with those victims he lugs off.
Even though The Collection takes its cues from ďtorture porn,Ē most of the death sequences here occur so quickly as to resist the label. This is really just a pretty typical slasher thatís stripped down to the most basic elements--it just happens to be wearing some Saw-inspired clothes. Its obvious connections to that series aside (and there are more than a few since series editor Kevin Greutert and composer Charlie Clouser are on board here), The Collection is a narrative and thematic infant by comparison; save for a tacked-on little epilogue that should have been chopped during editing, this one follows the originalís resistance towards shedding too much light on its villain. Just know that The Collector is like a combination of Jigsaw, Rube Goldberg, MacGyver, Kevin McCallister, and Batman all rolled into one, and heís one crazy bastard who isn't concerned with doling out moralistic punishment. Thereís something truly off-putting about him; heís enigmatic, but heís not a cool, anti-heroic enigma that youíd root for.
Having a decent cast to play against helps in this respect; Stewart is the only familiar face, and Arkin manages to grow on you during the course of the movie. His arc echoes the one in the first one, where heís pressed into reluctantly saving someone from The Collector, and, even though heís not exactly a nice guy himself, thereís something about his resilience and desire to turn the tables on his tormentor that works pretty well. Lee Tergesen is great as the guy sent in to rescue Elena, and heís not the insufferable hardass heís initially set up to be since he puts his differences with Arkin aside after realizing the severity of the situation. Elena herself is a bit of a wash and mostly only exists to drive the plot in the necessary direction by stumbling into this room and that room, all of which have been rigged up with various devices.
Those are the calling card, of course, and Iím as surprised as anyone that The Collection manages to be so riotously entertaining when its predecessor was so perfunctory. Maybe itís because itís not drifting in a sea of blood and viscera let loose by Saw and its ilk, which have been slowly shuffled out the back door in recent years--the whole torture porn thing feels like itís sort of done. With The Collection, it comes roaring back with a righteous fury that leans right into its truckload of gore without sacrificing some legitimately intense and creepy moments; one of them echoes Fulciís The Beyond, which nicely provides a reference point since this is The Collector if it were ripped off at the height of gonzo Italo-horror. I hesitate to call it an exclamation point to torture-centric aughts horror because it doesnít aim to comment upon it in any way; instead, The Collection is more of a messy, bloody ellipsis that trails off into a nightmarish labyrinth. After emerging on the other side, you might be convinced thereís a little life left in this sub-genre after all when itís committed to its outlandish excesses. Buy it!
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