bear traps

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The Collector & The Collection: Have Mask, Will Torture

Published April 2, 2013 by vfdpixie

the collector                                  the collection

(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.

josh stewart

Hmm…just notice how Arkin (Josh Stewart) looks like my prom date many moons ago. Minus the cuts and scratches. The handcuffs are probably a part of his daily wear these days though, along with an orange jumpsuit…and yeah, I’d date Arkin too..

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.

elena

Elena in full freakout mode and still glam. A red lip is a must even when terrified!

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…

The Movie with Four Names

Published January 4, 2013 by vfdpixie

deviltimesfive

Devil Times Five (1974, 1 hr 28 mins)

Wow!  This movie can be found under 4 titles:  Devil Times Five, Peopletoys, Tantrums, and The Horrible House on the Hill.  Seems like a lot of trouble for such a hot 70’s mess!

A bus transporting some mentally suspect kids crashes in the snowy mountains.  Five survive and make a difficult trek to a mountain retreat owned by the obnoxious Papa Doc (Gene Evans), a rich medical mogul.  He is hosting his daughter, Julie (Joan McCall), her boyfriend Rick (Taylor Lacher), as well as the dysfunctional Harvey and Ruth Beckman (played by Sorrel Booke and Shelly Morrison) for a weekend getaway.  It’s a chance for Rick and Harvey to ask Papa Doc for promotions, and a chance for Papa Doc to show off his sexy gal Lovely (Carolyn Stellar) and make everyone uncomfortable.

When the kids arrive at the mountain retreat, they hide out in the garage.  They are followed by their doctor who survives the crash and is bent on catching up to them.  Unfortunately he does.  We find out these kids are not just mentally suspect,  they are blood thirsty little sociopaths.  The killer kids do away with the good doctor with the longest beat down ever, punctuated with his slow motion “Nooooooooo’s!!!”  It made me think of Will Ferrell in Old School when he tranqs himself.  The little psychos then infiltrate the house and the adults take pity on them.  Of course, one by one, the kids pick them off.

I initially wanted to see this film because it starred a 12-year-old Leif Garrett, and I can’t resist horror from the 70’s.  Sadly, halfway through, I wanted it to end.  I wished the character of Papa Doc’s housekeeper Ralph (John Durren) has been expanded.  He was a mentally challenged patient at one of Papa Doc’s hospitals and taken in after he was orphaned.  Ralph felt a connection with one of the kids, the “nun” Hannah.  Unfortunately he is offed early on in the movie, and you wonder if these kids also had a connection to one of Papa Doc’s hospitals.

The dynamics between the couples were interesting, but as much as I tried to enjoy the campy triangle between Julie, Rick and Lovely, as well as Ruth’s drunken disinterest in Harvey, it got tiresome.

The murders were pretty twisted.  Hangings, bear traps, axe murders and being eaten by piranhas in the bath.  Just a day in the life of five little psychopaths.  At least they got creative!  Leif Garrett was also obviously wearing a horrendous wig in some scenes.  According to IMdb (whose source was Screem Magazine vol. 13), some scenes had to be re-shot after a change of directors.  Leif had cut his hair and was already shooting another film, hence the thrift store “rug”.  Ick!  And there is an inexplicable scene where he dresses in drag and says “That’s it.  You’re all mine, Harvey Beckman.”  So weird. I have to make an honourable mention to Sorrel Booke who plays Harvey.  Mr. Booke starred as Boss Hogg on the Dukes of Hazzard, which I religiously watched as a wee pixie.  If you look up his bio, he was pretty much a genius!

I actually liked the casting of the kids.  They were all convincingly creepy.  Their ringleader was this little African-American kid Brian (Tierre Turner) who was obnoxious and used his military fantasy to keep the brutal brats in order.  Kind of refreshing to see at least one person of colour in a vintage horror, and Tierre Turner has gone on to be a successful stunt coordinator for Hollywood films.  Leif Garrett played David, and Moe was played by his real-life sister, Dawn Lyn.  This movie was a real family affair as IMdb points out that Carolyn Stellar who plays Lovely, was Leif and Dawn Lyn’s mother.  What a sweet, bonding experience!  The other two characters, Susan and Sister Hannah, were played by Tia Thompson and Gail Smale.  Apparently they never acted again.  Scarred for life, perhaps?

dx5kids

Brian, “Sister” Hannah, Moe, David and Susan. Not exactly the glee club!

My final thought on this film lingers on the inevitable “Did you notice anything strange?” conversation that gets dismissed.  Oh yeah, a ragtag group of erratically behaved kids arrive and the phone, car and generator goes out.  No, nothing strange there!  This just reinforces my pixie rule of thumb:  Run from any type of pre-teen!  Just run!!

Most Memorable Line: Ruth, in response to Harvey’s romantic overtures, says, “Harvey, I have a headache, a toothache, a backache, and I’m expecting the gout!” Sooo…that’s a no?

Favourite Scene:  Has to be the love scene with Rick and Julie, hands down!  The dude calls his lady a fox as they make out!  Real smooth Rick, real smooth!

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