Film Review: The Collector – 4/10

‘Why didn’t you listen to me? I told you to stay with me…’

2009 was a weird year for horror films. While Ti West’s The House of the Devil pointed to a more sophisticated future, more relevant is the fact that it was the year of The Human Centipede, Saw VI and Antichrist. In this bleak, post 9/11 society, audiences were still not ready to leave torture porn behind. And into that mixed up, muddled up, shook up world dropped The Collector…

Arkin (Josh Stewart) is a former convict who works as a handyman for the Chase family. The film takes a good 20 minutes to get around to the chief conceit – namely that Arkin’s wife owes money to a loan shark and if she doesn’t pay before midnight bad loan shark stuff will happen to her. So, Arkin decides to rob the Chase family as he knows they are going away for the weekend and he also knows the location of their safe. Upon arrival, however, some other freak has entered the property, kidnapped the whole family and set a bunch of traps all over the place.

Given that this film was originally conceived as a Saw prequel, and also that writer-director Marcus Dunstan and his co-writer Patrick Melton have previously co-written four other Saw sequels, it is perhaps inevitable that this looks, sounds and feels like a Saw sequel. It has the quick cuts, the shoddy editing and the washed out blue lighting (aside from the occasional scene which is inexplicably shot all in green). It also has numerous gruesome death sequences, some subpar acting and a bunch of forgettable characters. In fact, the only thing to separate this from any number of entries in the Saw franchise is that while those movies are completely sexless, The Collector never misses an opportunity to ogle it’s female characters, most notably the Chase family’s young daughter Jill (Madeline Zima). This is not a welcome variation from what was already a pretty tired formula by 2009. The fact that a beautiful cat is also brutally decapitated on screen just makes the whole thing ever more grim.

Not everything here is terrible. Some of the traps are inventive in a Home-Alone-for-sickos kind of way but they are undermined by the terrible CGI and workmanlike direction. The Collector himself is fairly compelling antagonist but this is one of the rare occasions where the villain would have benefited from more back story. We have zero motivation or explanation for why he is ‘collecting’ and this means that the film’s conclusion rather falls flat.

The Collector is a time capsule of an era in which horror films had reached their nadir. There is no reason to return to it now.