August 1, 2010

The Collector (2009)

"Desperate to repay his debt to his ex-wife, an ex-con plots a heist at his new employer's country home, unaware that a second criminal has also targeted the property, and rigged it with a series of deadly traps."

I thought that I'd reviewed this film ages ago when it first came out but, having looked through my notes, it seems I must have just talked to people about it and imagined writing a review because I don't have one. Maybe it was on my hard drive during the ill-fated week when I tried Ubuntu 10.04 out and had to wipe everything because it didn't work properly. Who knows? I'll just have to make up for it by reviewing it now.

So, "The Collector" is yet another "in the tradition of Saw" serial killer movies with a few good kills, a bit of torture and quite a few action scenes.

I was hoping that it was a remake of William Wyler's 1965 film of the same name starring Terence Stamp but, alas, subtle horror like that just doesn't work anymore. I think there may be a couple of nods to it even so. There's kidnapping and all that other good stuff in this though so I wasn't too disappointed. The premise of the film reminded me a bit of "Captured" from 1998 with Andrew Divoff but there are quite a few films where thieves break into houses only to end up becoming the victims themselves so any hope for an original story would seem to be futile.

The new spin on things here is that the psycho serial killer who only gets named as "The Collector" is a real sick dude who has such incredible handyman skills that he can set up a house full of mutilating traps in the few hours he has between pretending to be an exterminator and kidnapping an entire family apart from one daughter who has gone out and her sister who he can't find. If I didn't know better, I'd say this was a black comedy but it seems to be played pretty straight so I'm not sure. Maybe it's just plotholes or the fact that it's ultimately not actually a very good film but all the traps and the time the killer has to set them up are a bit of a stretch.

The hero, if we can call him that, is played by Josh Stewart who I think is a bit of a David Arquette lookalike if you get him from the right angle. Maybe that's just me. His character, Arkin, is quite likable even though you know he's not exactly a good guy. I suppose you could say that his intentions are good but I think that real thieves are the scum of the earth so I really didn't care what happened to him. As much as I enjoyed the alternative ending with its more honest approach to what most of us would really do in the situation, the even more unhappy ending is what Arkin actually deserved. Horror movies have often been morality tales and "The Collector" simply continues the trend. It's not up there with John Carpenter's "Halloween" or any of the earlier "Friday the 13th" sequels but there are clearly some messages in it about what happens when you do wrong.

Similarly, the older daughter, Jill, played by Madeline Zima, gets her comeuppance for for breaking some obvious horror movie rules about sexual morality. It's like going back to the '80s with stuff like this but it's sometimes nice to see a few clichés. One thing is for sure, Madeline Zima certainly has a fine pair of clichés in this film.

There were quite a few things I didn't like about "The Collector" though. There's a pretty nasty and totally unnecessary scene with a cat which means that I will never have this film in my collection. I can't endorse things like that because I know how impressionable some people can be and I can almost hear the cheers from an audience of stupid little teenagers who would probably like to film their own version and stick it up on YouTube. There are enough little retards filling up animal shelters with the results of what they think is funny already and I find any animal cruelty (fake or not) in movies to be totally reprehensible. I don't particularly care what happens to people because they have a say in what happens to them but anything to do with animals is another matter. It really makes me want to get on my soapbox not because the scene caused any emotional response in me but because it was just so puerile and irresponsible. Hopefully sane people will be disgusted by what happens to the cat. There's a dog death later too for dog lovers to get upset about.

Although I found the gory effects used to be quite realistic, the action scenes themselves were overdone and incredible in a bad way. I probably should have used the word "implausible" but I was hoping to save that for my summary. Everything in "The Collector" is implausible even so but I suppose that's why it's a movie and not real life.

I was quite disappointed by the way the movie looked. At first I thought it was going to be yet another horrible handycam nasty as it seemed grainy and cheap. I'm still not entirely sure that it shouldn't be included in that category because the acting although adequate was nothing very special and the script even less so. There were just too many times where my willing suspension of disbelief was lost because of all the ridiculous traps or the superhuman qualities of "The Collector" himself. He pretty much turned into another Jason Voorhees at one point instead of a Spaniard in some kind of gimp mask.

One other thing I noticed was that there wasn't really a lot of tension to all the "cat and mouse" (or, more appropriately, "spider and fly") shennanigans inside the house. There were a couple of moments involving the safe where the timing was almost perfect but then things got a little bit predictable especially when it came to jump scares.

The ending, which presumably sets things up for some kind of sequel which I hope never gets made, was at least ten minutes too long. Although it was necessary from a moral angle, it was full of moments which jumped the shark and ruined a lot of the good things which had come before. Yes, in spite of writing what I now realise has turned into a pretty negative review, I can accept that there were quite a few good bits to this film too and it was generally entertaining to watch. I just felt that I'd seen a lot of this before not because it was completely unoriginal, because it wasn't, but because there's just so much you can do with any home invasion/torture movie in the first place.

I don't recommend "The Collector" because basically it's not so much derivative of the "Saw" franchise as it is a "Home Alone" for adults. The attempts to be original almost worked but then yet another formula came into play and undermined them. It wasn't all that scary either but it was disgusting enough if you like gore. It wasn't a very deep movie especially with a plot that you can summarise in one sentence if you really want to but, then again, what horror movie is? It's not as if any of us watch these things for some kind of spiritual enlightenment.

Years ago, I used to read reviews of films like this which often ended with the words, "beer and pizza". I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't really want either when watching this film but, as yet another bit of averageness among far too many similar offerings, you might enjoy it with whatever beverages and snacks (or lack of them) you choose.

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