The Collector 2009 Review
The Collector 2009
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
Starring: Josh Stewart, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernández
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When Saw was released almost a decade ago, a lot of horror websites had billed it as a macabre slasher movie, but then after it hit screens sometime later, it turned out not to be a slasher flick at all. Its surprising success, and that of the multitude of copycats that followed, allowed the birth of a new sub genre, which was affectionately named, torture porn. The differences in structure between torture porn and that of our favourite category are small, but obvious enough that director Marcus Dunstan could merge the two together for this nerve-jangling cross-breed from 2009.
Whereas Saw and its brothers are big on slash, they are generally low on stalk, but The Collector fixes that by giving us a masked menace that imposes himself on the audience as would a Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. His lack of vocal characterisation and background development is straight out of an old skool classic, but he utilises the tools of murder that we find more generally in modern horror.
An ex-con that is determined to help his wife pay off a debt to some ruthless gangsters, plans a burglary at his new employer’s country home. He is unaware however that a maniacal killer has also targeted the family, and has set up deadly traps and devices to fulfil his lust for murder.
I must confess that Marcus Dunstan had not been a name that I had initially recognised until I was informed that he had written the screenplays to parts IV, V and VI of the Saw franchise. The intention here was to set this up as a prequel to that series, however the content owners declined and it proved to be the right decision. The mystery surrounding the identity of the antagonist, much as in Halloween, is perhaps one of the strongest things about this story, and it gives the villain a boosted fear factor. For a hardened horror veteran such as myself, it’s unusual that there is a feature that can both keep my eyes transfixed in tension and force me to recoil at the gore that I’m witnessing on screen. I can truly say that I found this to be much scarier than anything that I have witnessed within more recent gore led flicks.
What we have here is an exhilarating motion picture and it’s one that bursts with suspense and energy. Much of that is thanks to the fact that we are guided through the mayhem by an un-archetypal hero; a criminal who redeems his unlawful motives by striving to assist the victims that he comes across throughout the bloody death trap. There’s a point in the runtime where he could escape the minefield of blood-letting, but he returns; not for selfish reasons, but because a young girl that reminds him of his daughter, is still trapped inside the house. The pair then team up against the menace and work in tandem to survive, which drives our hope that they can conquer the assailant.
Dunstan directs the action impeccably and the camera at times feels like a webcam that is giving us a sneak view inside the production of a snuff video. We see close-ups of colourful spiders in the opening, which turn out to be not just artistic flair, but symbolic of the antagonist’s modus operandi and predatory instinct for trapping and executing his prey. There’s heaps of goo splattered throughout the numerous kill scenes and as a nod to the stalwarts of the genre, they even include the ‘have sex and die’ rule. One youngster loses his fingers, before falling into a floor laden with bear traps, whilst another is catapulted onto a wall of spikes. Perhaps the most gruesome moments are saved for our hero, and he suffers constantly when pitted against the maniac inside the house. Unlike the heroines that we have seen conquer seemingly unstoppable villains time and again, we feel that mano a mano the pair are on an almost equal footing without the deadly appliances, so we are constantly anticipating the moment that they come face to face. When that finally happens, it doesn’t disappoint and somehow the fight scenes seem all the more realistic due to this.
The screenplay does suffer from a lack of logic somewhat in places. Whilst our killer is mysterious and ominous, it’s physically, practically and financially impossible that he could rig the house the way that he did in order to achieve his goals. It’s true that cinema is a form of entertainment that should be allowed to push the boundaries of reality, but the story aimed for continuity in so many other places that the key aspect of the horror flies in the face of all that was built up around it. Still this is hardly a big complaint and it is one that is easily forgiven when we are biting our nails and wondering what could come next. I felt that Josh Stewart’s Arkin was outstanding as the lead character and Fernández brought so much to the bogeyman’s role without saying a word. In certain lighting, his eyes shine like crystals and this makes him look almost superhuman. His motives are never really disclosed to us, which helps to maintain the aura of fear that surrounds him.
There was a time when new-age horror movies were called ‘MTV’ by long-time enthusiasts and unworthy to share a stall with the classics of old. The Collector is one of the most frightening pictures that I’ve seen for ages and could never be accused of being diluted for PG-13 audiences. If you’re looking for a film that makes you double check if you have locked the door tonight, you could do a lot worse than this. I loved it..