Studio: LD Entertainment
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Writer: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
Producer: Julie Richardson, Brett Forbes, Patrick Rizzotti
Stars: Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez, Karley Scott Collins, Daniella Alonso, Robert Wisdom
A burglar becomes one family’s only hope for survival when a serial killer traps them in a house wired with deadly devices.
“The Collector” has more than once been misreported as starting its life as a “Saw” prequel. This is not quite true. What actually happened is that while the script shopped for production money, someone at Twisted Pictures read it and thought, “maybe this can be rewritten into an origin story for Jigsaw.” That idea then died almost as quickly as it formed. It is certainly easy to see why the myth persists, though. “The Collector” owes a clear debt to “Saw” and almost certainly would not have seen the light of a projector bulb had that series never been successful.
Whereas Jigsaw usually designs an individual device for each of his victims, The Collector wires an entire house with traps and lets his victims find them through unfortunate luck. And whereas Jigsaw has a method to his madness, The Collector just seems interested in killing for killing’s sake.
Remember that scene in Michael Mann’s “The Insider” when Russell Crowe labels cigarettes as a delivery device for nicotine? “The Collector” is a delivery device for gruesome kills. Director Marcus Dunstan, who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator Patrick Melton, may even agree with that statement. The movie does not pretend to have a story so much as a premise that sets up the mayhem.
Perpetually sleepy-eyed Josh Stewart is a contractor by day and a burglar by night. Dunstan and Melton clearly know that the audience has to find him likeable despite his criminal behavior. So what story does exist in the film is mostly devoted to establishing why Stewart has to burgle a nice family in the first place. In the process of robbing the home of his latest client/mark, Stewart discovers he is not the only one visiting the house without a welcome. A masked man who collects human beings has rigged the house Rube Goldberg-style to gruesomely trap, torture, or kill his prey.
The character of The Collector has a simple, yet effective visual design. A distinctive leather mask hides all facial features except for his mouth and eyes that glow creepily for a reason that is never explained. Juan Fernandez brings personality to the killer even without the aid of dialogue. He has a spider-like way of moving around with a slight hunch in his back, and a Michael Myers-like way of examining his targets with an intense sense of curiosity.
The Collector begins as a potentially intriguing character. Similar to the masked intruders of “The Strangers,” The Collector never utters a single word. Initially, this trait has the desired effect of adding a maddening layer of mystery to the killer. Who is he? What are his motives? How does he choose who to kill and who to collect? Why he is he doing all of this? Eventually, the mystery wears off with the realization that he acts this way because he has no real backstory. He himself is the backstory to explain the traps in the house, and they are the true characters of the film.
The devices themselves require such an intricate amount of planning and preparation that one wonders why even a madman would go through so much trouble to kill or capture someone. It must take hours to rig the entire house the way The Collector did, assuming it is even possible in the short timeframe he had. It is not clear what he gains for his efforts, either. He usually is not in the room when the traps go off, so he does not have the “pleasure” of seeing his labor in action.
Which is the problem with “The Collector.” It lacks substance behind the carnage. The unexplained motives of “The Strangers” worked because terrorizing without a purpose is why they were frightening. Here, it is not the terror that The Collector inflicts that is frightening, but rather the sadistic method in which he does it. And for such a complicated murder M.O. to go unexplained, the audience is left to find satisfaction only in the deaths themselves.
On the surface, the film has several things going for it. The acting is believable. The green and blue color tones create a distinctive tone (even if that color tone is lifted directly from “Saw”). Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s makeup FX look great. There’s even a creative shot from a stationary camera inside a barrel-rolling vehicle that is fantastic. But below that surface sheen is where “The Collector” ceases to exist. Any search for a deeper purpose for the film only exposes it for being that delivery device I mentioned earlier.
That is perfectly acceptable as long as you know what is in store. Anyone looking for a taut thriller with a clever story should look elsewhere. But anyone looking for splatters of red rain or a lighter “torture porn” movie that doesn’t weigh itself down with things like creative depth might be satisfied with “The Collector” as a 90-minute diversion. Whatever the case, just do not expect “The Collector” to be anything more than what it is: a delivery device for gruesome kills.
NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.
Review Score: 40