The Collector (2009)


The Collector

Masked people with big red boxes are not to be trusted.

(2009) Horror (Freestyle Releasing) Josh Stewart, Karley Scott Collins, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez, Daniella Roberson, Jabari Thomas, Colvin Roberson, Michael Reilly Burke, Haley Alexis Pullo, Madeline Zima, Alex Feldman. Directed by Marcus Dunstan

It takes a thief to catch a thief. But when a thief encounters a fiendishly sadistic and clever serial killer, is it a fair fight?

Arkin (Stewart) is a handyman who is working at the home of Michael Chase (Burke), a decent man with a sweet daughter named Hannah (Collins), a spoiled teenage daughter named Jill (Zima) and a spoiled wife named Victoria (Roth). Arkin is working for an exterminator (Fernandez) but what he’s really doing is casing the residence. Arkin is a paroled thief and he knows that Michael has a large gemstone in his safe.

When he discovers his girlfriend Lisa (Roberson) is in deep to a loan shark and needs money that evening or she’ll face excruciating injury or even death, Arkin moves up the timetable and decides to do the job that very night.

When he gets to the Chase home he discovers a big red box in the center of the bedroom where the safe is in. Inside the big box is a man who informs Arkin that the man who put him there is a Collector, who traps families, keeps whoever survives his traps but murders everyone else. He also finds out that the Chase family has been taken hostage and the house riddled with booby traps, ranging from a sticky but heavily corrosive acid on the floor to razors dropping from the ceiling. Arkin feels guilty about leaving the daughter who reminds him of his own daughter (Pullo) and means to get her out, but it means going head to head with a sadistic, homicidal maniac.

I have to admit that Stewart makes a fairly solid lead. He is certainly an anti-hero – his character is motivated purely by self-interest for the most part. Still, Stewart gives the character enough depth that we end up pulling for him. Roth also makes an excellent victim.

The traps are really clever in some places but for the most part you can only see so many sharp thingies penetrate so much flesh. I like how the set up is very brief and we get into the meat of the movie quickly. That’s clearly what horror fans want and they get what they want, in spades, here.

Director Marcus Dunstan is better known as a writer for horror flicks, including entries in the Saw series and the upcoming sequel to Piranha. This might be some of his best writing yet – certainly it feels more clever than some of his Saw movies.

Still, you’ll get a feeling that you’ve seen this all before. Torture porn is, after all, fairly rote once you get past the initial shock and gore. It doesn’t take long to get desensitized to it. What you are left with then is the characters, and the ability to identify with them. You get that here more than in other examples of the genre, but not enough to really overcome the sameness of the gore.

WHY RENT THIS: Some of the traps are fiendishly clever. Stewart makes a solid anti-hero. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: While better than the Saw series of late, it seems to be pretty much the same old torture porn.

FAMILY VALUES: The violence is fairly sadistic and brutal; there’s some sexuality and nudity as well and as you might expect, the language is pretty rough.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The original script was written to be a prequel to the Saw movies.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a music video by Nico as well as a preview of the soundtrack album.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $9.3M on an unreported production budget; the film made money, almost for certain.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: She’s Out of My League

Hostel: Part II


Richard Burgi tries to prove that getting a tattoo is better than getting a massage.

Richard Burgi tries to prove that getting a tattoo is better than getting a massage.

(Lionsgate) Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, Roger Bart, Richard Burgi, Heather Mattarazzo, Jay Hernandez, Vera Jordanova, Jordan Ladd, Milan Knazko, Stanislav Ianevski, Monika Malacova, Patrik Zigo. Directed by Eli Roth.

There are places on this Earth that are a bit off the beaten path. No guidebook will tell you about them, no tour bus will ever stop there. However, if you should stumble on to these places, you are richly rewarded with a travel experience that all world travelers dream of; a place all their own. Of course, there are other places on this Earth that are best left unexplored.

Picking off where Hostel left off, Paxton (Hernandez) returns home to his girlfriend (Ladd) beset by nightmares and feeling that the unseen proprietors of the human abattoir that he escaped from are closing in on him. She’s less than sympathetic, tired of being awakened by his screams at 3am every morning. Of course, is it paranoia you’re feeling when someone really is out to get you?

Over in Rome, a trio of art students are trying to get away to explore Eastern Europe. Of course, when you’re a trio of attractive female art students, that brings problems in and of itself, like drunken Eurotrash not willing to take no for an answer. Whitney (Phillips) is the sexy one, Lorna (Mattarazzo) is the uptight nerdy one and Beth (German) is the sweet responsible one, for those keeping score. They run into one of their models, Axelle (Jordanova) from class and she promises to take them to a place that will give them an adventure they’d not soon forget.

They arrive at a charming Slovakian village in the midst of a harvest festival. However, there is something insidious and sinister happening just below the surface. The girls have been targeted by an organization that caters to super-wealthy businessmen from around the globe whose tastes run to the sick and grisly, who are willing to torture and murder young people for a very lucrative fee. Stuart (Bart) and Todd (Burgi) are a couple of American businessmen who have come to change their lives forever, to become men who are legitimately feared.

That’s pretty much it for the plot. Essentially, this is all an excuse to get to the grisly, cruel displays of torture that have been labeled “torture porn” by critics. And, quite frankly, those who are turned off by such things shouldn’t rent this, and probably weren’t going to anyway.

While this was critically disemboweled during its initial 2007 release, I actually found it to be a taut and suspenseful horror film. Yes, the acting is a step above a student film, the plot is riddled with clichés, and character development is non-existent or stereotypical at best. However, I found myself engrossed (no pun intended) by the movie. While it certainly wasn’t a movie that lacked for publicity, I do think that it qualifies as a hidden gem simply because it got such an unfair shake by critics that some folks might have avoided it after it was released.

Director Roth is an exciting up-and-coming director, one who has captured the eye of Quentin Tarantino, who was impressed enough to co-produce this. Yes, the gore can be hard to stomach at times; this certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, it delivers the kind of visceral thrills that make horror movies so cathartic, and makes for a whole new subset of villains to hate; Eurotrash. C’mon, admit it; since we can’t hate the Commies anymore, there’s gotta be somebody to rise up and take their place in our pantheon of evil.

I found this to be a very competently-made horror movie with genuine shocks. Yeah, this isn’t the best-written movie you’ll see ever, but it’s good at what it is supposed to be good at, and you may come away pleasantly surprised.

WHY RENT THIS: Some excellent shocks and a crew of genuinely reprehensible baddies. Lots of visceral, cathartic thrills.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The torture scenes are extremely graphic and will turn your stomach if you are sensitive about such things. Plot and characterization are somewhat clichéd.

FAMILY MATTERS: Are you kidding? Only if you’re the Manson family.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: During a scene in which a number of severed heads are displayed, one of the heads belongs to director Eli Roth.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: An unrated director’s version features a commentary track with producer Quentin Tarrantino, and a Factory Torture Cam feature.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Day Four of Six Days of Darkness