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The Collection Review: There's Nothing Left To Do But Die

By TK | Film Reviews | November 30, 2012 | Comments ()


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It was with more than a little trepidation that I signed up for the review of The Collection. It had already been given the dreaded "torture porn" tag in some circles, and it's cherubic young female protagonist made me anxious about the type of misogyny and violence that's symptomatic of such films. It's the sequel to 2009's The Collector, a film I hadn't seen but whose plot seemed particularly squicky. But on the other hand, I love me some horror movies, and I'm always on the lookout for the next pleasantly horrific surprise.

I'm quite happy to announce that The Collection falls mostly into the latter category. While hardly an award winner, it's an amusingly disturbing way to spend an evening. The film picks up almost immediately after its predecessor, with a quick intro informing us that an unnamed city is being terrorized by a gimp-masked serial killer dubbed The Collector, who invades homes and work places, slaughters everyone in particularly gruesome fashion, and then absconds with one victim, kept alive for purposes unknown. The film focuses on a team of mercenaries, including Lucello (Lee Tergesen), Paz (Shannon Kane), and Wally (Andre Royo, best known as Bubbles from "The Wire"), along with Arkin, the bloodied and haunted survivor from the original, hired to find Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), who is taken by the Collector after he cleverly and horrifyingly slaughters an entire nightclub full of partiers.

It's a hell of an opening -- within the first ten minutes, we witness how he has rigged an entire facility with a series of vicious and murderous traps designed to turn the partygoers into chum. It's a fascinating and grotesque introduction, with spinning gears and levers being pulled and all manner of blades and saws and crushing weights reducing literally hundreds of people in red, wet paste.

To tell more than that is to give away the fun, if fun is the word to be used. The Collection is less Hostel and more Final Destination, though. Despite an antagonist known for torturing his victims, director/writer Marcus Dunstan shows thankfully little torture, and instead focused on the wickedly clever and hideously gruesome traps and tricks that the Collector has rigged around the abandoned factory he uses for a lair. Much like Final Destination and its successors revel in the bizarre and complex machinations leading up to each kill, The Collection is less about the killing, and more about laying the trap.

That's not to say that there isn't killing. Good lord, there is. The film is bloody and brutal and has more severed limbs and gutted torsos that I've seen in a year's worth of cinema. But it's not that kind of dehumanizing and overly clinical, slow suffering torture that many modern horror films resort to. It's a difficult distinction to describe, but it's an a critical one. It's also actually scary at times, something that's lacking in modern horror more often than not. Too frequently tension, pacing, and atmosphere are lazily sacrificed in favor of jump scares and gore. The Collection mixes all of the above up reasonably fluidly. It's aided in its knotty tension and atmosphere by some spectacularly creepy set design of the killer's lair, although it's hindered by too much darkness and more filtering that necessary.

The film is an odd duck in many other ways. It's barely an eye-blink long, clocking in at a ridiculously brisk 75 minutes (not including the end credits). At that speed, and considering how much of it is focused on action and buildup to the next trap being sprung, there's little time for character development or even plot. We're introduced to pretty much every character in the first ten minutes, given backstory to a couple of them, and then it's off to the meat grinder. Yet despite that, Dunstan has a couple of characters that you actually bother to worry about. Former thief-cum-vengeful-escapee Arkin is enjoyably shell-shocked yet determined, scarred and almost broken by his previous encounter but dedicated to seeing it to the end (once he's been coerced into helping, anyway).

But the real breath of fresh air is Fitzpatrick, who through a combination of decent acting and smart writing, makes the film worthwhile. Dunstan goes the extra mile to make her a tough, relatively clear-headed protagonist, guileful enough to know when to hide and when to fight, when to scream and when to be quiet. Further eschewing the conventional female-in-trouble trope, she's never naked, never gratuitously abused, and never even shows a hint of cleavage. She's a normal girl is a horrific situation, unquestionably scared and tearful and despairing, who desperately tries to fight and claw her way out. It's sad that this is something that we even have to be impressed by, but here we are.

The film isn't flawless, of course. It's supremely over-edited in some scenes, too dark and overly filtered, with a little too much flash over substance. Logically, it makes zero sense in terms of the practicality and plausibility of the entire exercise, and there are times when it really does just feel like Aliens meets Saw with the absurdity ratcheted up to 11. At times it feels less like a film and more like a collection of really nifty (albeit gross and disturbing) ideas with a tenuous, hastily cobbled-together story built to show them off.

Yet I still found myself enjoying it, if "enjoying" is what you feel when watching people get helplessly eviscerated by a silent, twisted psychopath. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it certainly throws some redesign its way, and frankly, for a those 75 minutes, that felt like enough.



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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • TenaciousJP

    Why does this review have a screenshot of Anne Hathaway on then set of Les Mis? Is the serial killer collecting broken French prostitutes?

  • I've been sitting on a review of this one since last April when I saw the first test screening. It's even better now. The cut I saw was about 95 minutes without credits. This one is 85 with and and really helps gloss over some big old plot holes that were lingered on in the original version. I can't imagine a gore-friendly horror fan walking away disappointed.

  • DeistBrawler

    Have you still not seen the first film? I find it interesting that your favorite part of this one is the traps considering my only real complaint is that the traps aren't as good as they are in the first movie.

    On a side note the haunted house I worked at all of October got a shitload of their props from this movie. It was cool watching the film and going, "wait a minute...I used that knife."

  • Robert

    I think the problem with the traps, overall, is that the writers created all these functional death traps--exploding jars, hunting traps, razors--before they were brought into the Saw series. Then, all those traps were used in Saw films before they were seen in The Collector.

    The writers said at NYCC last year that they didn't want to repeat themselves, so they created as many new traps as they could think of. They were just a bit more Rube Goldberg than the first film and even Saw IV or V. I thought some of the trap triggers in the hotel were very clever, but not necessarily what they triggered.

    Cool thing about the weapons at your haunt. One of the haunts in my area rented out a bunch of the Saw props one year and had an interactive museum with photo ops and live actors.

  • ceebee_eebee

    What a pleasant surprise! I too love me some horror movies and knowing this isn't going to be a t&a torture porn disaster is excellent news. Definitely gonna check it out.

  • Jezzer

    Your comment about the beginning of the movie reminds me of Ghost Ship, which also began with the impressive slaughter of an entire deck full of people. Too bad the rest of that movie couldn't hold up.

  • Jerce

    Ghost Ship was tasty cheese, definitely helped by a classier-than-it-deserved cast. It also immediately sprang to my mind while reading TK's third paragraph.

    I'd re-watch Ghost Ship any rainy afternoon you'd care to name.

  • Jezzer

    Ghost Ship was worth the price of admission for the opening sequence and the montage that revealed exactly what happened to everyone on the ship.

    Heck, now I want to watch it again.

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