Monday, November 4, 2013

Second Time's the Charm Collection

Like many horror fans, I considered 2009's The Collector a mediocre Saw cash-in, better than some (oh hai Captive) but still fairly unspectacular or worth another moment's thought. Mostly, I was just annoyed that anytime I spoke about William Wyler's outstanding adaptation of John Fowles' novel, I'd have to first preface it with "the 1965 kidnapping film, not the torture porny one." Think of all that wasted breath! It's enough to make a gal never even consider seeing what seemed like an extremely unnecessary sequel.

Yet here we are. Funny how that works...

Quick Plot: Following the events of The Collector, news of that film's brutal (and handy) serial kidnapper/killer has spread throughout town, rendering overprotective parents even more justifiably overprotective now that the world's smartest psychopath is a known fugitive. Poor Arkin (Josh Stewart), last seen being re-abducted, has finally escaped the clutches of Jigsaw--er, The Collector. Unfortunately for the locksmith-turned-would-be-jewel-theif, there's a price to pay.

Arkin, you see, is the only living witness to The Collector's latest game: slaughtering the entire patronage of a happening club via an insanely cool opening scene that involves a ceiling lawn mower and man-crushing elevator.

It's seriously kickass.

The only other survivor is a young rich girl named Elena, who escaped a few killer gadgets only to end up inside The Collector's House of Leaves-esque funhouse. While there, she just might encounter the following:


-iron maidens
-human test tube displays a la The Cell


-a zombified army of fellow kidnappees who have been drugged and tortured into 28 Days Later-ish states of pure psychotic fury

-lots of character actors who were on HBO dramas.

All of these things, as you might guess, are insanely amazing.

Elena's father recruits a team of bait--er, mercenaries-- to follow the trail of the elusive killer and retrieve his pixie cut little girl. Following the usual plot logic of sequels like The Descent 2, we accept the fairly ridiculous fact that Arkin would agree to join them in order to avoid a prison sentence (because rich dads can buy pardons, didn't you know?) and simply sit back to watch the highly trained elite team die terrible horrible no good very bad deaths.
Written and directed by returning filmmaker (and a Saw IV-3D writer) Marcus Dunstan, The Collection wastes none of its brief running time. We get a batch of characters put in mortal danger, and a few spunkier ones with a fighting chance to survive. The film slows down briefly to drop hints about what else entertains its masked killer (including a creepy girl-woman who somehow avoids torture by being creepy) but simply refuses to bog itself down in exposition or backstory. As a result, we're treated to a quick, scary, creative and occasionally, very funny improvement upon its standard first installment.

High Points
Between the bomb-detonated necklaces, bone-crushing elevator, security system tarantulas and pseudo-zombie army, The Collection's batch of menaces seems to come out of a bottomless Santa Claus sack filled with magic horror movie tricks

Low Points
Chekhov’s Law of Hearing Aids is tragically ignored, as despite one scene of minor tension, the fact that the film's lead is indebted to a very fragile piece of technology is never really utilized

The Jury's Out
Less than 90 minutes long, I have to assume The Collection's credits sequence--in which all the speaking roles get a highlighted screencap freezing on their bloody and gruesome deaths--was inserted to pad the running time. It's a bizarre choice that takes the film's last few beats into pure comedy territory (observe one actor's credit displayed over a splat of body parts and blood). I can't tell if it's silly or brilliant.

Lessons Learned
Don't go clubbing. Ever.

In a pinch, it's possible to unlock a rusty suitcase hinge using a bra

Split up. Seriously, if you want to DIE a BRUTAL AND HORRIBLE DEATH, just split up

Having a rich dad might not prevent your boyfriend from cheating on you, but it sure comes in handy when you're kidnapped by a supergenius psychopath

There's no question that horror fans should check out The Collection. Perhaps the more complicated issue involves whether one should first see The Collector (not the Terence Stamp one; one should ALWAYS see the Terence Stamp one). Much like the Saw series, the second film does indeed depend on the story and characters from the first. While I found the first entry to be too mean-spirited and mediocre, it apparently has a strong  enough fanbase. So who knows, you might like it. Regardless, I'd find it pretty hard to believe you wouldn't enjoy The Collection.


  1. I found this to be much better than its predecessor. My favorite scene might seem strange but I found the sequence where Arkin breaks the glass unleashing all the water was refreshing in that we had a character in a modern day horror film actually have some thought and react to a situation in a perfectly logical way. And the opening scene is pretty outstanding; one upping the opening club scene in Blade quite nicely.

    And while my favorite Stamp character will always be Zod, The Collector is a close second.

  2. Zod is what made me fall in love with Stamp. The Collector is what made me thankful he'll never love me back.

  3. Grrrr... this is gonna make me go watch the first one... dammit!

    1. I'M SORRY! Although hey, SOME people really dug the first one. Weirdos.

  4. I actually liked The Collector, but I do have to agree that The Collection is the more enjoyable of the two films. And to expand on a point that Jonathan made about "a character in a modern day horror film actually have some thought and react to a situation in a perfectly logical way":

    I mean you have the hero, Arkin, rebreaking his arm in order to free himself and Elena from a cage that they are trapped in for starters. Plus he shoots a homeless man (!) from a window in The Collector's lair to draw the attention of the police--which is pretty creative as well as quick thinking.

    From what I remember the first film featured the death scenes or maybe death shots of the characters/cast members during the end credits as well.

    I also watched a making of featurette about this film, which showed director Marcus Dunstan playing the Susperia theme between takes of filming a climactic scene to get the actors in the right mood. I thought that was pretty cool, because music can evoke emotion of course, but also because I love the theme from Susperia! :)

    1. How can you not love the theme from Suspiria? It's by no means my favorite genre film of the era, but the music! (and now I have in my head the trailer with the whisper/shout of 'SUSPIRIA!' going through my head.

      And yes, I really did appreciate that they made both Arkin AND Elena into fairly smart little captives. Granted, that balances out the fact that the private hired guns acted pretty stupidly, but still: it makes it so much easier to give in to a movie when you're not busy rolling your eyes at the characters' actions.

  5. For me it's entirely the opposite: I found the first part to be unique, chilling and very scary. The second one was mediocre, by-the-numbers and most necessarily not scary in the least. The opening sequence was pretty good though (even if it features cheap CGi gore).

    I'm pretty sure it was the girl who broke all the glass with water inside (actually it should be formaldehyde or otherwise the conservation of the "sculptures" wouldn't work) to put out the fire Arkin was trapped in.

    1. Interesting. This one did quickly up the body count just by adding numbers, and I'll admit that I might have given it a minor pass just for having Bubbles from The Wire as one of the canon fodder. I'm easy that way.

    2. For me The Collection was a typical quickie sequel. More victims (I can't bring myself to call those cardboards 'characters'), more blood & gore and zero tension. The only suprise was that the token female soldier made it so far.
      It's passable but faded from my mind even before the end credits were over.
      Now I hope they don't make a third one.

    3. You are correct. It was the girl saving Arkin. My bad. Either way, clever sequence

  6. Interesting! I felt like the first film was a quickie Saw-cash-in (I've heard rumors that the script actually began as a Saw prequel, which makes sense given Dunstan's franchise connection) and just found this one such fun. Different strokes I guess!

    1. Yeah, I heard that too and it indeed felt like a saw cash-in BUT it was actually good.
      The Collection had potential and a couple nice ideas which were all left undeveloped. I mean, they have a deaf girl as the lead. Hide and seek scenes could have been really intense (and they would have padded the short running time a bit). Yet, they decided to do nothing with it.
      They had those cool corpse sculptures and they were only used for a quick eerie visual or two but nothing more.
      The Collector's lady friend did nothing for me. She just felt wrong and was pretty useless in the end.
      The backstory babble Arkin gave at the end felt tacked-on (and the story was pretty lame on top).
      They also still didn't explain The Collector's strange Riddick-like eyes! (this bothers me since the first part)
      And please with sugar on top, can we let the Aliens-ripoff sequels die now? This was old 15 years ago.
      As you said: Different strokes...

      I really love your reviews btw (even if I don't agree at times). Are recommendations ok?

    2. There definitely had to be some deleted scenes. How can you have a deaf girl as your lead without ever having that come into play?

      Considering they haven't actually told us anything about The Collector yet, I can't fault the non-reveal about the eyes. I mean, how does he rig the world's best booby traps and keep coming back from the dead and build a house that never ends? There are a lot of questions I've got!

      Thanks again for the comments. And I am ALWAYS open to recommendations!

    3. I'd really like to recommend 2 films:

      The first one is Afterparty, a Spanish (sort of) Slasher. It's not a masterpiece or a hidden gem but I really liked how the played with typical gender conventions of the genre. It's also very well-made, short and doesn't rely too much on gore or blood. The final twist has been done before and it's not hard to guess but I didn't mind. I liked it.
      I'm not sure if this is already available in the US though.

      The other one is Mike Mendez' The Convent.
      It has neon colored demon nuns, Adrienne Barbeau chopping off heads right and left and a wonderful massacre scene set to Lesley Gore's "You don't own me". What more can you ask of a movie (did I mention neon colored demon nuns)?
      Yes, it's cheesy and the effects are questionable (on purpose) but it's also a lot of fun.

    4. I've heard of The Convent, but never thought to check it out. Putting both on my list now! Thank you kindly.