The Collector is a serial killer with a rather interesting hobby. Taking notes from Manhunter‘s Tooth Fairy and a bit of Pulp Fiction’s Gimp, he imprisons families in their homes, aided with a series of meticulous booby traps. Once the family has been secured he begins to torture them to death, keeping only one of them for reasons only known to him. But unfortunately for The Collector, the family he is currently visiting has received another uninvited, late night guest. He is a burglar equipped with a conscious. He has broken into the home in hopes of a big score but instead finds himself trapped inside and embroiled in a life-or-death game of cat and mouse with a masked murderer, as he tries to escape the home and save the family in the process.
Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the writing team behind the later SAW films, have been handed their own movie to write and Dunstan to direct. What they deliver horror fans is a simple, yet competent horror movie with all the possibilities of becoming a new horror franchise. Arkin (Josh Stewart looking like the love child of Sean Penn and Ed Norton) needs to pull off a burglary and it needs to happen tonight. The cash he hopes to get from this job will help keep the mother of his young daughter from getting a nasty visit from some loan sharks looking for their money. Luckily, he has the solution. He knows that the house of a prominent jeweler will be vacant for two weeks and he just happens to also know exactly where the house safe is.
This simple in-and-out job ends up going to shit because the house had also been marked by someone else who got there a little while before he did. But this person is not interested in robbing the place. No, this man is The Collector. His story is unknown, but we are shown (in the Se7en-ish opening credits) that he uses information he gathers on households to imprison the occupants. While inside their homes he uses a cornucopia of death-dealing devices like bear traps, acid glue, razor wire and body flingers to booby-trap the house in case anyone tries to escape. He then proceeds to torture them at his leisure.
But before you write this off as another in the “torture porn” genre of film know that most of the actual torture is taken place off-screen and not the focus of most of the thrills. Sure you see some of the after effects of his handiwork and a bit of pain he deals out on a couple in the basement in the form of stitching, slicing, fishhooks and body piercing, but most of the violence in The Collector is reserved for the people who happen to stumble into one of his wicked traps. These traps range from simple yet effective (nails on the stairs, acid glue on the floor) to the unnecessarily elaborate where setting off a trip wire fires off a chain of events right out of the Goonies. Being on the receiving end of one of these traps is devastating as you will witness. You will be treated to an impalement, cat slicing, dog blasting, an off-screen disembowelment, – and in one of the best scenes in the entire film – death by bear trap. These effects, considering the low budget, were all done to pretty good effect.
Overall, I didn’t find The Collector to be outstanding, but I stayed interested throughout and did find myself pulling for Arkin and his plight as an anti-hero. The killer, whose background remains a mystery, was formidable. Aside from his ability to craft traps right out of Warner Bros. ACME catalog, he was also proficient in bladed weapons. Hints of his personality are shown, particularly his interest in insects, but other than that his story remains as masked as his face. I was thankful that I did not have to sit through another horror movie this year that tried to trick the audience, unsuccessfully, that what they were watching was something smart and intelligent. Not to say this was dumb and ignorant, just that it was a basic premise “Burglar enters home occupied by serial killer” and not bogged down with the unecessary padding of useless backstory, convoluted killer motivations, and end-game plot twists.
My only real complaints came from some overly-stylistic camera work employed that made it difficult to know exactly where everyone was in regards to the rooms they were occupying. This rendered a couple action sequences kind of tough to figure out. While I liked that they decided to keep the film basic and to the point, I do wish just a little bit of time had been spent on the victims. Let us know just a little about them so that I could have seen them as more than distractions from the real battle between the killer and Arkin. I feel that if I could have cared – even just a little bit – about the other characters in the film, The Collector could have been a bit more than just an ok way to kill a couple hours.
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