22 March 2010

A MASKED PSYCHO ON THE LOOSE IN 2009's THE COLLECTOR AND MUSINGS ON TORTURE HORROR


The Collector is a film that comes from the writers of Saw IV and Saw V Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. Dunstan also directed the film. Most of the reviews I read online make multiple references and comparisons to the Saw film franchise and I guess this would be a good a time as any to make a rather embarrassing confession. I have never seen any of the Saw films. Okay I did begin watching the first film and someone I was watching it spoiled the ending less than half way through the film. I made some excuse that I had to make lesson plans for the next day and they left. I never finished the film or watched another movie with this person. Not that I am against the films or feel I would not enjoy them but I just have never watched one. I do know that they are of the ‘torture horror’ variety and it is not my favorite type of horror film. I am old school and like a clear cut good persona and clear cut evil person and I like the good guy or gal to win in the end. I also do not like the good guy or gal to win and yet have all their fingers chopped off or wind up in an inane asylum. Call me old fashioned. I sort of liked Hostel and some other similar films but in the end they are too nihilistic and pointless for me. Killing everyone off seems the easy way out of the script. And yea the guy in Hostel survives but gets his head cut off at the beginning of the sequel. So he dies and the woman who survives in part two doe so only because she is essentially the same sort of person as her tormentors. Where is the higher moral message I ask! Are these films only trying to hasten the apocalypse?


The Collector is not really a bad film and I can give it a marginal recommendation though it is essentially torture horror and is filled with plot gaps and glaring illogic that left me a little dissatisfied. I always go into a horror or sci-fi films with my suspension of disbelief dial turned way up and if there are some consistency issues that go off the ‘still within reason gauge’ then I can have a hard time swallowing enough of the film to say that it fits into a category of really good horror films or films in general. A good horror film is usually also a good film, period. The Collector is the story of small time criminal Arkin (played well enough by Josh Stewart) who just got out of jail and is trying to set things in his life right. But he is soon under pressure to rescue his ex-wife or girl friend (seems to be ex but we are never sure really since she vanishes from the script as quickly as she is written into it) from ruthless loan sharks. His solution is to crack a safe at a house he did some construction work on earlier. He knows the well to do family is going on vacation and the house will be empty. It all seems easy enough but when he breaks into the house later he soon finds himself in the middle of a gruesome nightmare organized by the masked Collector himself.

We never find out anything abut the collector of his motives. We do not know why he targeted this particular family. We do not find out too much really about the family. We are introduced into their world and lives briefly but soon enough they are all gagged and incoherent from torture. A strange and dangerous game ensues where Arkin moves throughout the booby trapped house trying to free the family and locate the missing daughter before the Collector can finish his sadist handy work on them. And when I say booby trapped I mean the place is filled with all sorts of death traps. These includes some sort of fly paper type substance on the floors that eat flesh, nails on the stair steps, things that fly through the air and impale you after you trip a wire, boards on all the windows with blades that hack at you if you get your hands through, floors covered with huge bear traps and strings that fling scissors at you. And this is one of the big problems with the film for me. Essentially how and why? Arkon had been in the house earlier on the same day and realizes that the family never had a chance to leave on their vacation. First how did the Collector rig up this entire huge mansion with so many intricate booby traps in the space of hours basically? And second is why would he do it? When Arkin arrives the husband and wife are bound up in the basement and have already been subjected to torture sessions. I am not even sure the Collector knows that the little girl is in the house or that the teenage daughter is coming home later with her date. No reason to believe he does. The point is why does he go overboard in designing all these devilish traps when he has his victims bound in the basement probably from the word go? Okay it really screws up Arkin as he sneaks through the house in the dark but how would the Collector know a cat burglar was going to be breaking in? And the guy can break in with no problem but then can’t get out!


Well I don’t care what anyone says it makes no sense to me. Now that moves us to the next aspect of the film and that is the graphic violence. It is nothing that I can’t handle or that made me feel nauseated in anyway. But I am a jaded horror film watcher and I can say that many of the scenes will unnerve most middle of the road horror viewers. And in the end isn’t that what all this torture horror is? Just cheap shots  to get a jolt and reaction out of the viewer. Prolonged scenes of some hapless person having their face peeled off with some kitchen appliance and then have them die a meaningless death later? Then we can say 'well it has some value since it created a discussion' of which I am myself guilty of engaging in at this very moment. The Collector is full of cheap shots and pointless suffering of innocent people. Okay not innocent in the sense that all of us have not at some point told a lie or stole a quarter from our grandmother’s purse but innocent in the sense that they really do deserve the fate meted out to them by tone of the new generation of  sadistic masked killers.  Killers who always seem to driven by some some sense of moral superiority over their victims. The fact that some guy had sex with his secretary seems to give the psycho the moral high ground and excuse the fact he wants to pour fire ants in to the guys rectum later to make him see the error of his ways more clearly. Say what you may about Jason or Michael Myers but usually their victims died instantly or within less than thirty seconds or so.  And I never felt Jason moralized. It was sheer coincidence most of his victims were humping out of wedlock in a bunk bed when he whacked them with his machete. It could have been anybody. The new breed of horror film madman likes to meticulously select his victims from which he will pound out teeth slowly with chisels and pull off finger nails one at a time while staring emotionlessly from some sort of S/M type of mask or outfit. Lets be honest too, this is a good way to fill up frames of film as well. Why develop characters with things like dialog when you can just bind them up and torture them slowly.

In the end the Collector character becomes yet another super-maniac who is always one step ahead of everyone else. No one is as smart or as strong or as intuitive as the masked killer. The new breed of killer usually lacks the supernatural abilities of someone like Jason but is just as unstoppable because they are so intelligent and precision trained in their skills. The Collector is the same type of super-evil madman and you are never safe from him. Remember the rather cute tagline for The Ghoulies ‘They’ll get you in the end’ with a little ghoulie smiling from inside a toilet? Well these new torture killers are same. You can run but you can’t hide. They’ll get you in the end.

But all of that being said The Collector does not entirely fail as a film and there is some real tension and suspense as Arkin slithers through the house trying not to let the Collector know he is there. The jerky, quick editing and use of special effects filters looks like so many other horror film these days and that is that they look like music videos. I am getting used to it though it is not really overdone here. Josh Stewart handles his acting duties capably enough sense most of the film is focuses on him. The Collector himself will probably not be a character I will develop an interest in though I would probably check out a sequel if one is made. He certainly is not as interesting as Terence Stamp’s lonely butterfly collector Freddie Clegg in the 1965 film of the same name and with which this film has no similarities. They don’t really make movies like that one anymore. You have to settle for the new Collector. A guy in a mask who never says anything and tortures and collects people in a trunk for a hobby. It is better than The Ghoulies though.






1 comment:

  1. This site is one of the best horror blogs I have every seen. Great job.

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