(2009, 1 hr, 30 mins) ( 2012, 1 hr, 22 mins)
So I though I’d treat myself to a double bill. I had seen The Collector last year, and was blown away. I loved this stylish and gruesome thriller, so when I heard there was a sequel, The Collection, I was cautiously excited. Both films were co-written and directed by Marcus Dunstan, and since the first movie was so innovative, I thought for sure the second would be comparable, so I bought both movies for, um, my collection. (Beware: Spoilers to follow!)
The Collector brings us Arkin O’Brien (Josh Stewart), a handyman/ex-con who is on a reno site where the clients are filthy rich. He has been casing this mansion because the owner, a jewel broker, has a giant gem in his safe, and Arkin needs to steal it to repay a jailhouse I.O.U. He is also looking out to provide for his family, a wife and daughter, and deal with his wife’s loan shark debt which has a midnight deadline. In desperation, Arkin decides to take the gem that night, since he believes the wealthy broker and his family to be away on vacation. Little does he know that a masked psycho of epic proportions has also marked the home for his own twisted purposes. We learn he is a collector of sorts, keeping his last victims as bait for new prey. Arkin gets caught up in this collector’s vicious and gruesome web of booby traps and is horrified to know that the family has in fact been captured and tortured by the intruder. The youngest daughter, Hannah (Karley Scott Collins) has escaped the Collector, and hides somewhere in the house. Being a father himself, Arkin puts his self-preservation instincts aside to help the child escape this deadly game.
The Collection begins where the first movie ends. Arkin rescues Hannah, but is unfortunately recaptured by the Collector and taken away in a signature red steamer trunk as bait for his next victims. We are also introduced to Elena Peters and her father in a flashback, survivors of a car crash and mourning the loss of her mother. They were rescued by a man named Lucello (Lee Tergensen), and he becomes their loyal protector. Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) is now a beautiful, pixie-haired young woman, whose overprotective and wealthy father (Christopher McDonald) is oblivious to her plans of partying well into the night at a secret club. Out to have a good time, Elena finds her boyfriend cheating, punches him out, and makes a tearful retreat. She finds a red steam trunk and opens it after hearing a thump from within, releasing our anti-hero, Arkin, bloodied and beaten. This sets off a series of deadly apparatus that turns the club into a death trap as the Collector makes his appearance. Elena watches her friend get crushed, and is unfortunately captured by the Collector. Arkin escapes by leaping out of a window using her now ex-boyfriend as a cushion and is rushed to the hospital where he is placed under arrest as he recuperates. Arkin is the only known survivor to escape the Collector, who we learn has been very busy with other victims. The nightclub massacre has been pegged as one of his kills, and Elena’s protector Lucello offers Arkin freedom for his help in finding her. He agrees and takes Lucello and some mercenaries to the Collector’s den of insanity housed in an abandoned hotel, where they encounter more booby traps, mutilated drug-crazed victims and guard dogs. Once again, it’s a battle of wits, survival and gore all at the Collector’s whim.
I’m really surprised that these movies had the same director/writer. The first movie had a gritty, indie, yet slick feel to it. The camera work was interesting, and I loved the cool colour scheme of blues and acid greens that created a cold, calculating backdrop for the villain. The traps were crazy and gruesome with lo-tech sophisticated uses for knives, fish hooks, and bear traps. The film was intimate and claustrophobic at the same time as we witnessed the thought processes of both Arkin and the Collector; intruders with very different goals. I felt The Collector was truly innovative. Josh Stewart was brilliant as Arkin, a bad guy with some humanity left, with a perpetually tortured look in his eye. I really enjoyed the suspense as he outsmarted the villain again and again.
In the second film, Stewart reprises his role as Arkin, and is just as good, as his character continued his survival of the fittest behaviour, but I found the film not as visually appealing, overusing the colour red. It reminded me of the Saw movies, a few of which Dunstan had a hand in writing. The gallery of the Collector’s creations also reminded me of The Human Centipede, which is unfortunate since I still want my time back for watching that stinker (incidentally, the sequel to that movie was…well, I want my time back for that one too). I also found that the kills weren’t as artistically shot as the first film. There were, however, some interesting moments, like seeing the Collector’s lab. There was also potential to see into his back story, which never came to fruition. Just a few tidbits here and there that lead us to believe the Collector had a traumatic experience in childhood that lead him down the psycho path. I liked the mannequin hallway which was very creepy, as well as the grotesque paintings throughout the hotel. I also loved the heroine, Elena because she was plucky (check out her MacGyver-esque escape from the steamer trunk), and yes, because she had a pixie cut. Finally, a gal with short hair who isn’t typical looking but still beautiful! Hats off to Marcus Dunstan for thinking outside the box for that. I was also happy to see Lee Tergensen in this film, since I’ve been a fan of his from his days on OZ, but that still couldn’t redeem it for me.
I had a wish list for The Collection. I wanted this movie to be about the Collector; about his process and what lead him to his morbid obsessions, because Dunstan created a fantastic villain. I wanted to know why he chose the ambitious nightclub location where he was bound to be found out. I wanted Arkin to face him in another battle of wits, not the forced mission that made our anti-hero look cowed and beaten. It’s a shame too, because director Dunstan seemed to be well-loved by his actors, and he looks like a super nice guy as I watched the dvd extras. Let’s hope that he makes The Collector his signature film and creates something just as great since he is clearly talented…because you know this pixie is waiting…