The Collector came out in 2009 with next to no fanfare and was met with some brutally negative reviews from the mainstream press, as well as the inevitable Saw comparisons (the film is the brainchild of Saw IV, V, and VI scribes, Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton) from genre outlets. Hearing a film compared to Saw, at this point, is usually more than enough to steer me clear of it as I’ve seen just about enough of Jigsaw and his ilk, and have been rooting on the demise of the tired torture porn sub-genre for months, now. Still, The Collector looked like a very indie production, with an ultra-grainy, less-than-polished aesthete that intrigued me, and the film’s star, Josh Stewart, has proven himself a very likeable, interesting screen presence, so I added this one to my short list of flicks I wanted to check out. Sadly, it didn’t last very long at my local Cineplex, so I’ve only just gotten around to seeing it on DVD, and I’ve got to say, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Stewart stars as Arkin, a small-time criminal working alongside a crew of contracters and handymen restoring the house of wealthy jewelry broker, Michael Chase (Bundy’s Michael Reilly Burke) and his wife, Victoria (Andrea Roth). Arkin’s worked his way into the family’s good graces, so much so that Chase’s youngest daughter, Hannah (Karley Scott Collins) invites him to tea parties, while the family’s Lolita-esque teenager, Jill (Madeline Zima) just plain invites him, period. Arkin’s not there to make friends, however, as he’s made a promise to his ex, Lisa (Daniella Alonso), to help her repay a debt to a vicious loan shark lest she leave town with his beloved daughter, Cindy (Haley Pullos) in tow. The Chase’s have a safe on the premises, and, once Arkin finds it, he knows what he has to do, and he’s got until midnight to do it.
With the family gone on vacation, Arkin returns to the Chase home and gets to work on the safe, however, when he hears someone else in the house, his plans are put on hold while he investigates. He quickly discovers that this is no ordinary intruder, as the house is now littered with traps, and every exit has been sealed off. Matters are made worse when he finds that the Chases never left, and are being held captive in their basement by a twisted masked killer (Juan Fernandez) with torture on his mind. Arkin stealthily avoids the killer and, eventually, makes his way out of the house, but his conscience gets the better of him, and the thought of young Hannah suffering at the hands of this lunatic is enough to draw him back. The question is, will Arkin be their savior, or another victim of the collector?
Let me get this out of the way early on; yes, The Collector is yet another entry into the torture porn sweepstakes, but it freshens things up considerably, adding elements of the slasher genre (the silent, masked killer), lots of Argento-inspired symbolism, and a lot of nifty camera tricks and inspired visuals that make viewing this one a treat. As one would expect , the kills and torture sequences are especially brutal, but they’re also pretty clever and very well executed, elevating the death scenes here to gory high art.
The performances, especially that of the sloe-eyed Stewart, are above the norm for the genre, and first-time helmer, Dunstan, proves quite the force behind the camera, employing a full arsenal of camera tricks while wisely avoiding the fast-cut, seizure inducing Avid-vomit style of his peers.
The only major gripes I had with The Collector lay with the film’s dependence on suspension of disbelief, as the killer’s myriad traps and the boarding up of all of the house’s windows would require a full day’s work and an entire crew of “collectors” to set up. It’s especially glaring seeing as how, when Arkin left work earlier that afternoon, none of these things were in place, yet, when he returns a few hours later, the entire house is covered in razor wire, bear traps, and all manner of sharp things dangling from ceilings. I know, I know; it’s only a movie, but, still.
The DVD from Vivendi/Universal features an ultra-grainy and grungy transfer of the film, which is in keeping with The Collector’s visual style, as well as a selection of extras, including a feature-length commentary track, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a music video (oh, I forgot to mention the film has a kick-ass soundtrack!), and more.
While it’s not necessarily breaking new ground in the torture porn genre, The Collector does inject enough by way of new ideas and compelling characters that I found myself hopelessly drawn into Arkin’s world. Needless to say, Saw fans will eat this one up, but even those who feel they’re up to their eyeballs in this sort of thing may be as surprised as I was by this one. Definitely worth checking out!