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Movie Review: The Collector

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As the closing credits began to roll, I heard a fellow down the row from me mutter "Thank God." He proceeded to gather his belongings and quickly exit the auditorium. I think it is safe to say that he did not particularly care for the movie. His distaste was seemingly shared by many in the relatively small crowd, as most folks left quickly and quietly. Not many people lingered over the credits.

I did for a little while, as that is my usual process. I want to allow at least some of the folks who worked on the film be recognized for their work, regardless of how good the movie is. Many of these non-star, behind the scenes folks are focused on doing their job the best they can with no one phoning it in and they deserve to be recognized for that. Otherwise, I agree with the first guy to leave the theater. The Collector is not a good movie. In fact it is pretty awful and one of the worst films I have seen this year.

This film sprang from the minds of the writers of Saw IV, V, and the upcoming VI. That being the case, I have read there had been thoughts of tying this into that long-running franchise as a prequel. I could see that being the case, although it would end up being a series low point. Man, I simply cannot believe how poor this movie is. It just fails to work on any level; well, any level aside the decent gore.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised; it's not like the Saw films are any sort of high art. Still, there is something to be said for the poorly executed grand ambition of the series. It is clear that, despite lacking one primary creative voice, anyone who comes to those films works very hard to work on series continuity. Anyway, that is neither here nor there. This is about director/co-writer Marcus Dunstan and writer Patrick Melton and their excursion into torture-horror in a film that does not have the Saw branding.

Thinking back over the movie, I have to wonder just what the thought process was as they were writing it. I wonder because it strikes me as being cobbled together from leftover Saw bits. You know, ideas for Jigsaw traps that they could not find a way to work into the films proper, rewritten into a film that is a cinematic house of horrors (heh, that works on a few levels).

The tag team of Dunstan and Melton have taken their Saw castoffs and rewritten them into the horror version of Home Alone. That's right, but instead of a little boy running around the house protecting his domain from would-be burglars, a psycho in a mask is marking his territory while a would-be burglar attempts to avoid the traps and save the family he was going to rob. I know, they took that classic family film and turned it into a cinematic abomination that does not make any sense. It is not a lack of sense you realize after going on the ride, it is the lack of logic that almost leaps of the screen at you and almost makes you scream out "WHY???" or "WHAT??" Talk about frustrating.

All right, what is the story about? If you figure it out, please let me know.

The movie opens with a couple coming home at night, finding the power off and a mysterious box in the bedroom. They open the box, scream, someone grabs them from behind, and the title card comes up. The story then picks up at a house undergoing some renovations and pest control. The family is getting ready to leave for vacation and are packing up the car, but it is not really them that we care about, at least not yet.

One of the handymen working there is an ex-con named Arkin (Josh Stewart). He gets his paycheck and heads off to meet his daughter and an upset wife. She needs money for a loan shark, and he doesn't have enough. Never fear, the family he was just working for has a massive gemstone in lockup that he has his eyes on. So, that evening he heads back, breaks in and sets about cracking the safe.

The quick in and out job is stopped short when Arkin hears someone else enter the house. The new guest is a man with weird, glowy eyes and a luchador mask. Arkin moves about trying to avoid being caught by the second interloper. It is during this sneaking around that he discovers two things. First, the house is riddled with blood-drawing traps, trip lines, knives, spikes, and bear traps. Second, the resident family that was all set to go on vacation is still there, tied up in the basement.

What follows is Arkin moving around the house trying to save the family and avoid the masked crazy person. The sad thing is that this is not a bad concept, you could probably make a good movie with this sort of story. Unfortunately, this is not it. There are too many lapses in logic to allow this to really be entertaining. Besides that, I did not care one iota about any of these characters. Why should I? The screenplay did not give me any real reason to.

If you want any sort of explanation, forget it. You will have to write that part of the story yourself. Someone says he collects people, but what does that mean? Does he have a warehouse filled with chained up people? At one point the box is opened to reveal a tortured, but alive, person. When asked what he is, he says he is the bait. What? Bait for what? If he is already in the house and the power is cut, what is the point? Also, the family was just about ready to leave for their vacation, what kept them home? And why was the daughter out on a date? Then what is up with the killer's eyes? It makes no sense at all.

Then we have he traps. We watch Arkin enter the house, move through a few rooms and head upstairs to the safe. Moments later when he goes back through some of the same rooms, they are filled with complex traps. This had me a little confused. Not much time had passed — just when were these traps set up exactly? Also, the people were already tied up in the basement, what were the traps set to catch?

The Collector is a maddening experience; its only reason for being is to show some torture. It definitely needs some re-writing to give it a human factor. This thing just makes no sense. It seems to want to challenge the extreme horror coming out of France (like Inside or Martyrs), but it fails to do anything other than shed blood.

Bottom line. This movie is clearly built on Saw scrapings that someone did not want wasted. This is a movie devoid of story and character, a couple of elements that generally wanted in your movie. The overdone stylistic choices attempt to mask the hollow tale, but it doesn't work. It is a shame that movies like this get a wide release while something like Trick R' Treat gets relegated to DVD despite strong positive buzz. It boggles the mind. One more thing — when flagging down police at night, be sure to jump at the last moment right in front of the car.

I love horror movies, but this is not one worth wasting your time on.

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