Dir. Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton
Reviewer. Joey Keogh
Unfortunately, when it comes to torture porn, more often than not, it’s quantity over quality. We’re given the usual suspects; body parts being chopped off, people pulling syringes out of their faces, and far too much blood, guts and screaming, and expected to be terrified, despite the lack of any plot or characters we care about. Even more annoyingly, good villains in such pieces are few and far between – let’s face it, in twenty years time, nobody is going to be discussing Jigsaw or the Elite Hunting Society with as much reverence as Michael or Freddy.
It’s interesting, then, that, in spite of the fact it boasts a pretty rubbish, and rather silly-looking, villain, 'The Collector' is one of the more effective torture porn pieces of recent years. This is thanks, in large part, to Josh Stewart’s Arkin; a tortured ex-con, struggling to get by and do right by his kid, he is the anti-hero with whom we all can easily empathise.
When we first meet him, Arkin is working on the house of a typical wealthy family. After his child support payment is not enough to fend off greedy loan sharks, he agrees to rob the same house, in exchange for a one-off cash payment, that will hopefully sort his money troubles and his fractured relationship with his ex-wife, for a little while longer. Unfortunately, the night he chooses to do the job, he discovers that he’s not alone in the house, and not only is the sinister Collector there, too, but he’s rigged the place with traps and tied the family up, with the youngest kid hiding somewhere, about to be captured.
'The Collector' plays out, essentially, like a game of cat and mouse, and it works best while building up the tension as Arkin and the Collector dodge each other (and the variously laid traps) in the house. However, as is to be expected, the gore is plentiful, but it is also surprisingly restrained, especially coming from Dunstan and Melton, whose biggest credits to date are on the latter 'Saw' films. There are genuinely cringe-inducing moments, each unravelling with slow, almost expert precision (but thankfully without the clock-ticking-down repetitiveness for which the Saw series is infamous), so that it’s impossible to look away. It’s not the long, drawn out torture boredom to which we’ve become accustomed, it’s something so much tougher, that punches the audience in the gut. It’s substantial, real, and effectively stomach-churning.
Jerome Dillon’s score hums along in the background, making each scene prickle with electricity. The use of the first few, twisted nursery rhyme-esque, bars from Korn’s Dead Bodies Everywhere, when Arkin first realises there is someone else in the house, is wonderfully disconcerting, while a sequence involving the teenage daughter, her boyfriend, and some expertly laid traps, scored to the Bauhaus classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead is devilishly inventive. Thankfully, the Collector himself doesn’t get his own theme tune, although it’d be quite difficult to make him look any dumber. But he is a decent villain, nonetheless, especially when he’s silently hacking away at his victims, seemingly for love of the hobby (something that is, sadly, not explored enough in the sequel).
'The Collector' is surprisingly inventive and involving. Though it doesn’t break many boundaries for the much-maligned subgenre, it carves its own path, with some expertly built tension, a fantastic anti-hero in the form of Arkin, some decent gore that manages not to border on the ridiculous, and a threat that, though silly in the guise of “The Collector”, manages to be frightening and very real. Not a perfect film, but definitely far ahead of its counterparts, The Collector is a scary, captivating, very thrilling experience that will have you on the edge of your seat right up until its final moments.