***1/2 (out of 5)
July 31, 2009
Josh Stewart as ARKIN
Daniella Alonso as LISA
Michael Reilly Burke as MICHAEL
Andrea Roth as VICTORIA
Madeline Zima as JILL
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
BY KEVIN CARR
As an avid horror fan, I find myself often elated and disappointed with the industry. Hollywood itself is so imitative, and genre filmmaking is even worse. So when a movie hits the screens that is unique in any way, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the industry to run that concept into the ground.
For example, in 2002 the film “The Ring” came out in America and broke new ground… at least on North American screens. (Let’s face it: this style of filmmaking was old hat in Japan already.) It didn’t take long for every remotely successful Asian import to crop up, yielding mostly bad movies.
Similarly, when the one-two punch of “Saw” and “Hostel” came out about five years ago, it was groundbreaking, visceral and terrifying. Sadly, this led to a string of cheap exploitative films and resulted in the coining of the term “torture porn.”
No matter how cool a film is, it can get ruined in retrospect to a degree. So, when a movie comes out that borrows elements from existing archetypes that have been run into the ground, yet manages to present things in a fresh way, I applaud that.
With this in mind, on the surface, “The Collector” is nothing new. It tells the story of a thief named Arkin (Josh Stewart) who breaks into a rich family’s house to steal a precious stone that can wipe out his wife’s loan shark debt. However, in the middle of his heist, Arkin discovers the house has been boobytrapped with a wide range of vicious devices. These have been set by another intruder, simply known as the Collector, who is already in the house terrorizing the family.
Arkin, who had earlier taken a shine to the family’s young daughter, sticks around to try to save her and her family before the Collector can literally tear them to pieces.
Like I said, this doesn’t sound all that unique. In fact, it’d be easy to dismiss this movie as torture porn. And yes, there are some very grisly moments that involve the horrific abuse of the human body. However, there’s more depth to this film. It’s the struggle of the would-be thief to do the right thing, and to outsmart the killer in the process.
“The Collector” is a relatively simple film, with the majority of the action taking place in the house. In fact, in this respect, the movie works as a variant on the traditional haunted house theme. But simplicity is okay, especially in a horror film. As gory and violent as “The Collector” is, it’s also grounded in suspense.
Several years ago, Alexandre Aja came out with his chilling and disturbing film “High Tension.” While a very different set-up, “The Collector” reminds me of this film. Amid all the blood and punishment, “The Collector” works the suspense chain along with a wrenching soundtrack and a gritty film stock that harkens back to the old horror flicks of the 70s.
“The Collector” is not for everybody. It’s frightening and chilling, and really only for those with an appetite for horror films. But it falls in a very fortunate spot being that it’s similar enough to other films to not cause a string of copycats, but it has a unique quality that makes it feel fresh.