We are well past the halfway point of summer, and consequently the theatrical drought that has defined the past few months. From now through October there's nearly one if not two genre releases a week, and one can't help but notice that most of them are sequels or remakes. As such, the original properties tend to stick out quite a bit, and "The Collector" has drummed up a modicum of interest of late because of this. Unfortunately, horror fans looking for a breath of creativity before the oncoming rehash binge may find themselves a bit disappointed when all is said and done.
"The Collector" centers around the story of Arkin (Josh Stewart), a not-so-ex-con that finds himself searching for some extra cash to pay off his (ex?) wife's debts to save her from certain death. As it turns out, the family that he has been doing handy work for has a precious gem stored in their safe that should more than pay off what she owes. When the family embarks on a vacation, Arkin infiltrates the gigantic home only to find that he's not alone, and that the family never made it past the driveway. As if that weren't enough, the house is now completely booby trapped.
In the beginning, it appears that the duo of Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan of "Saw" IV, V, and VI "fame" are on the verge of crafting an original narrative. In the early going, the viewer is given a unique look into this privileged family, including a fascinating scene when the trophy wife of the family names one of her wrinkles, and then Botox-es it into oblivion. It's these early glimpses that misled me into thinking that I was going to see these quirks come into play later on. Instead, as "The Collector" gets moving, the seeds of nuance are washed away in a torrent of overblown traps, overbearing electronic music, and torturous violence that never fails to drum up comparison to a certain series of films that Melton and Dunstan have their names stamped on.
If Dunstan's goal as a director is to make even the most desensitized viewer climb out of their skin, than this is another one for the win column. I have to admit that some of the flash kills hit the mark in the way that they were intended, and you can't take that away from this film. Also, the image of the 'Collector' is pretty scary and iconic without any backing context, and I really wish that he was the focus. I don't think that this movie was meant to be a slasher, but the image and the presence is strong enough that I believe that they could have left the bear traps at home and still put forth a good showing.
Unfortunately, "The Collector" chooses to go the "Saw" route at nearly every turn, and manages to replicate both the good and the bad of the series with staggering accuracy. For every genuinely shocking moment, there's a high speed shaky cam shot of a gimmicky trap, like a room covered in acid with a half melted cat in it. For every salient plot point, there's a disjointed flashback that fails to provide answers and forces the viewer to draw conclusions from nothing of substance. The cavernous plot holes are especially frustrating in the last moments of the film, when the "reveal" provokes more questions than it answers.
If I regard "The Collector" as a warm up for this fall's "Saw VI," it delivers. As broken as the formula is, it has proven to be a winner year after year, and that's a fact that I begrudgingly accepted some time ago. If you aren't yet bored of traps 'n' torture, this film will more than satisfy your bloodlust. Otherwise, you will likely find yourself picking out glimmers of originality among the mess, and becoming frustrated when they vanish in favor of the quick fix gimmicks that define the current generation of torture films.