Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: The Collection
Review by Eric Lefenfeld
The Collector was one of the more pleasant surprises to grace the horror landscape in the last few years. Initial torture porn dismissals proved to be unfounded, and the film ended up being quite the nasty little game of cat and mouse involving one of the more memorable villains to come down the slasher pipeline. Three years later, The Collection has arrived. A great horror sequel is able to expand upon the mythology of the first film without losing touch of what made it so worthy of being sequelized in the first place. As we all know, though, these elusive great horror sequels are rare beasts, indeed. The Collection, while fun on its own terms, goes the route of so many lesser second entries that have come before — going bigger and broader to its own detriment.
The film opens with a set piece that’s already far more over the top than anything in the first film, and it never looks back from there. Let’s just say the Collector does a little more than dance when he attends a rave. As the first film taught audiences, all “collections” begin with bait in a box. This time out, the box contains a familiar face in the form of Arkin (Josh Stewart), perhaps the world’s unluckiest robber and protagonist of the first film. He escapes the club, but barely makes it to the hospital before being recruited by a group of mercenaries on a mission to rescue Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), a young partygoer who has been deemed worthy of entry into the collection. Armed with a host of automatic weapons, along with Arkin’s knowledge of the Collector’s location, the group sets out to take on the maniac on his own turf.
There’s nothing wrong with the setup here. Big, absurd opening. Fine. Heavy weaponry. Still on board. Once they arrive at the Collector’s lair, though, the film doesn’t balance out these over the top elements. The film just keeps getting bigger, louder, and progressively less creepy. Mangled bodies encased in glowing water tanks, wackily obscene paintings, the occasional bout of campy day-glo lighting – these are just a few examples of the snowballing bombast that plagues the film. By the time the Collector bursts through a door with a shotgun, two rottweilers in tow, sexily backlit with smoke rolling in on either side, any sense of fear is long gone. It’s a fun shot, but it completes The Collector’s transformation into latter-sequel Freddy Krueger; the darkness and the unsettling savagery are all gone. There was an alluring mystery behind The Collector’s milky eyes. Now he feels more like any old slasher.
Speaking of slashing, let’s talk traps — the bread and butter of both films. The devices in the first film require a pretty massive suspension of disbelief, but they were still able to somewhat straddle the line of reality. Everything (minus cat-attracting sticky acid) felt like something that could be constructed after a shopping spree at a home improvement store; they felt homemade, in other words, and that was part of the charm. With the sequel, though, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan can’t seem to resist the tendencies they picked up from the Saw series. The traps are bigger and bloodier, but they lack that ramshackle charm that made the set pieces in the first film feel so refreshing.
Josh Stewart continues to carry himself well as the unlikely hero of the franchise, but his everyman style that initially stood out so much is lost in all the noise this time around. Emma Fitzpatrick is also more than capable, even if her role requires little more than running and screaming. Ringers like Lee Tergesen and Andre Royo round out the mix, but their considerable talents are mostly wasted in their stock roles as mercenaries.
On its own merit, The Collection is a fine old time, but it suffers in comparison to the original. It does what it sets out to do, namely spill as much blood as possible over the course of its very short running time. Satisfaction will be found if one is looking for gore and gore alone, but look elsewhere to replicate the morbid charm of the first film.