Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan’s 2009 nightmare creation “The Collector” was a breakout and almost unexpected hit. In a sea of letdown horror originals and tiresome remakes (“Texas Chainsaw 3-D,” released January 4th, continues to kick a thoroughly and completely dead horse), “The Collector” was a breath of fresh air for the fact that it was honestly scary. The 2012 follow-up “The Collection” tries admirably to live up to the hype of the original, going bigger, bolder, and bloodier. However, the movie doesn’t quite get there, landing somewhere between the originality of “The Collector,” yet thankfully well short of such throw-a-ways as the legion of “Saw” films it tries so hard to emulate.
Prior viewing of “The Collector” is not mandated, but certainly recommended as the movie picks up where its predecessor left off. Josh Stewart (TV’s “Criminal Minds”) reprises his role of Arkin, a would-be thief kidnapped by the Collector when he tries to save a family from the killer’s murderous clutches. However, he gets his chance to escape when he is used as bait in the Collector’s latest gambit – to find a suitable victim at a trendy but seedy nightclub downtown.
Before escaping, however, Arkin sees Elena, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, (Emma Fitzpatrick) taken by the sadistic killer. Nursing his wounds (veterans of the original movie will know just how extensive these are), Arkin believes he can reconnect with his wife and daughter. However, he is ‘convinced’ by Elena’s father (Christopher McDonald, “Happy Gilmore”), to accompany a team of mercenaries to the Collector’s macabre hideout to stage a daring rescue. Once inside, the team encounters a host of murderous traps similar to the original movie yet more devastating, more elaborate, and more numerous.
There are several problems with “The Collection” – all avoidable but overlooked in the name of the wider audience Melton and Dunstan hoped to draw in. First, planting Arkin (who has a legitimate ax to grind) amidst a group of mercenaries takes much suspense away from the movie because, let’s face it, it’s scarier for an innocent victim to fall to a killer’s clutches than a hardened military elite. Second, while the first movie utilized the spirit of the traps used throughout the “Saw” franchise, “The Collection” goes overboard, setting up a maze of traps of enormous complexity which the movie’s hapless victims fall to one by one.
There’s also the issue of glaring plot holes. “The Collector” left much up to the imagination, but its small-scale (the entire movie took place in a wealthy but manageable colonial house) added fright due to its cat-and-mouse game between Arkin and the killer. “The Collection,” however, is down-right unbelievable, with a team of mercenaries infiltrating a hotel “because the cops already had their shot” at stopping the vicious madman, where a quick call to the authorities with the man’s location would have ended the movie right there.
Critics rightly take umbrage with the gory nature of the opening “Club Scene Massacre,” which sees probably a hundred club-goers murdered by a sinister device. However one scene, involving a lesser number of club kids trapped within a cage (including Elena’s best friend), is probably the most disturbing scene in the entire movie, both for the cold detachment with which the Collector observes, as well as the helpless way Elena watches as her friend meets her end. It elicits a sense of desperation and despair from the movie wisely missing from “The Collector,” but which it appears writers Dunstan and Melton (famous for writing several “Saw” sequels), couldn’t resist including in this film.
However, the movie has certain aspects going for it, such as the macabre depiction once inside the hotel (victims in cages, bones and limbs everywhere, and in a very holocaust-esque scenario, a host of ‘zombies’ – once humans drugged by the Collector to the point of insanity), and one has the distinct impression they have stumbled upon a truly horrific nightmare.
Portraying the Collector’s latest victim, Emma Fitzpatrick does a fairly competent job, and many reviews lauded her as a high point of the film. However, her character is rather pointless, as the more interesting story exists between Arkin and the Collector. Stewart does well as a man who’s had his life taken by this sinister madman, and rightly wants revenge. However, more focus is placed on the creative death sequences, and less on the payday Arkin means to bring to this masked psychopath. And it’s a shame, as Stewart does a good job showing Arkin’s depth without much to work with. One scene toward the beginning, as he begs the mercenaries not to make him enter the hotel, as well as another where he comes face-to-face with the Collector from a trapped cage show the pain, horror, and despair that line Arkin’s reality.
The Collector himself, while menacing, also suffers from a usual plight of Hollywood – Juan Fernández, who played the murderer in the first movie, is replaced by stuntman Randal Archer (TV’s “True Blood”), who just doesn’t have the same creepy air that Fernández brought to the table. The Collector’s still as vicious, still as menacing, and still as formidable, but is missing the x-factor that Fernández possessed that made him a truly horrifying entity.
On balance, it’s unfair to say “The Collection” is a complete letdown. It has its moments (a scene where the Collector stands silhouetted in a doorway with two Rottweilers by his side strikes a fairly creepy note), as well as ambiance, good acting, and an ending the first movie should have had. But it also has its disappointments. It’s over-reliance on gore, as well as major plot holes, may leave some fans – who may have been expecting more – feeling left out.
– by Mark Ziobro