Film Review: The Collector
The Collector (2009)
Studio: Fortress Features
Theatrical Release Date: July 31, 2009
Directed By: Marcus Dunstan
Cast: Josh Stewart, Karley Scott Collins, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Madeline Zima, Juan Fernandez
Review By: Kayley Viteo
A thief named Arkin, oddly enough our hero, needs to make some quick cash and sets out to rob a family but finds himself scrambling to stay alive. A serial killer known only as The Collector has already set up shop and let’s just say that conditions are far from friendly.
“The Collector” is a relatively simple movie. What I find utterly refreshing about “The Collector” is that although it does rely heavily on what I call the “trap setup,” it feels more like a psychological thriller than anything remotely close to SAW. That in itself is kind of ironic, as the director and screenwriter of this film wrote a couple of SAW flicks themselves (IV-VI). Even more interesting is that when shopping “The Collector” around, Lionsgate wanted to use it in the SAW franchise. The directors, who were in attendance at this sneak preview, mentioned something about a prequel. (No joke.)
Director Marcus Dunstan is excellent here, contrasting himself in only good ways from his starkly different screenplay “Feast.” Gone is the blunt force trauma with a comedy kicker, and in its place is brutal violence that isn’t funny at all. Several shots, particularly in the opening sequence, took my breath away and as the film progresses it only gets better. What is best about how this film is built is that there is a very claustrophobic sense of tension that is instrumental in making sure this film is not merely trap after trap and kill after kill (although, from a gore lover’s perspective, there’s more than enough blood to keep you satisfied). From the lighting to the incredible music (provided by none other than Depeche Mode and Korn), there is so much here for a horror fan to revel in.
Perhaps what I enjoy most about “The Collector” is the reality it manages to ground itself in, despite an unrealistic scenario. Every trap is made with something that could easily come from a house and none of it feels contrived. Most importantly, the characters don’t feel contrived. Our hero is understandably flawed, and he certainly struggles between his desperate sense of self-preservation and his more noble traits. The fractured viewing experience of the audience parallels with Arkin, who constantly has to track himself and watch his footsteps (literally). When you mesh with a horror film like that, it works insanely well.
All that being said, there are a few moments in the film that really hurt the pacing and subsequently the tension. For one thing, the character of older sister Jill (Madeline Zima) could have been completely erased from the film. She’s underwritten and poorly dealt with. Personally, I also didn’t love a certain scene with a cat because it just felt over the top. And finally, I love the ending but the way the film arrives there feels tacked on. Given that the film was shot somewhat in pieces it makes sense, but it just doesn’t feel right.
All in all, I really liked “The Collector.” It resonates with tension in a way most modern American horror films do not. Can it stand up to French horror, which seems to have mastered mixing extreme gore with story and characters? No. In this area foreign horror seems consistently one step ahead of us. But The Collector at least shows we might be catching up.
Brutal As Hell Rating:
4 out of 5