The only thing I can think of to say in favor of The Collector is that it’s a mere 88 minutes long. Oh, it still overstays its welcome (I’ve had door-to-door God salesmen who were less wearing), but when you put it up against the two-plus hours of last week’s Orphan it seems pretty zippy. Otherwise, this is exactly the movie you’d expect from a couple of guys—writer-director Marcus Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton—whose main claim to fame is having written the last couple Saw movies. In fact, The Collector pretty much is a Saw movie in everything but name and recurring characters.
In other words, this is more torture porn—or what has more and more come to pass for a horror picture in recent years. Frankly, I find it a repellent and slightly troubling form of horror, though I don’t suppose it’s all that far removed from the old French stage thrills of the Grand Guignol. It perhaps even serves some of the same purpose—a test to see how much you, the viewer, can stand. Whether or not that’s entertainment is a personal call. The fetishism of pain and the instruments used to inflict it are not—thankfully—to everyone’s taste. In its current form, this kind of horror is really little more than the “creative death” school of thrills that was popularized by the Omen movies in the 1970s, but with the nastiness ramped to excessive levels for a supposedly increasingly jaded audience.
The Collector brings nothing new to this bathful-of-blood-and-a-bucket-of-giblets realm of horror—save for more incoherence than usual. Well, it also delivers what has to be the funniest use of a creaky step ever (improbably so on a staircase in a very posh house). Unfortunately, this was clearly not the intention, which is really too bad, since everything about The Collector would play better as twisted comedy. Otherwise, the movie is simply a wholly preposterous setup to assault the viewer with impalings, disembowelings, electrocutions, vicious dog attacks, acid-coated floors, lip sewings, bear traps and other such expressions inimical to good fellowship.
The story finds hard-up ex-con Arkin (Josh Stewart, who looks like a runner-up in a Sean Penn look-alike contest) planning on burgling his employer’s house while the family is on vacation. This is somehow tied to his need to give money to his ex-wife (Daniella Alonso), who is about to have her knees nailed to the floor by loan sharks. (How she got into this predicament is never made clear, but who really cares?) Ah, but Arkin hasn’t reckoned on the house being improbably rigged—by an unknown agent who comes to be known as “the collector”—with a bunch of Rube Goldberg death devices in the few hours since the agent’s departure that afternoon. The result? Arkin finds himself trapped—along with the family (they seem not to have made that vacation) and some guy “the collector” keeps in a steamer trunk—in this makeshift maze of horror.
There is a reason for all this, it turns out, but the reason itself needs a reason that never surfaces. Worse, the film’s big revelation concerning “the collector’s” target is utterly nonsensical if you stop to think about it for longer than, say, three seconds. And there’s also that age-old question that tends to beleaguer all such tales: You mean there wasn’t an easier way to do all this? The answer is obviously that of course there was, but then we wouldn’t have this movie. That would suit me just fine, come to think of it. Rated R for pervasive sadistic bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.