Title: The Collection
Director: Marcus Dunstan (‘The Collector’)
Starring: Josh Stewart (‘The dark Knight Rises,’ TV’s ‘The Walking Dead’), Emma Fitzpatrick (‘The Social Network,’ ‘In Time’) and Lee Tergesen (‘No One Lives,’ TV’s ‘The Big C’)
Balancing an intriguing story with relatable, well-developed characters against the backdrop of the horror sub-genre, torture porn, can can be challenging for directors, even those who have experience writing and helming previous horror movies. Unfortunately, such is the case with writer-director Marcus Dunstan with his latest film, ‘The Collection,’ which tries to emulate the special and visual effects and creative, detailed characters featured in his ‘Saw’ films. The new action horror thriller lacks character motive and a detailed plot, and instead just features countless and indistinguishable stunts, proving that the right balance between characters and plotpoints is important in creating scares.
‘The Collection’ follows college student Elena (played by Emma Fitzpatrick), who is still traumatized by the death of her mother as a child. When her friends talk her into attending an underground warehous party, she finds herself in another nightmare where the rest of the club goers are mowed, sliced and crushed to death by a macabre set of contraptions by a masked psychopath, the Collector (portrayed by Randall Archer). Elena is the only survivor, but is locked in a trunk and transported to an unknown location by the Collector.
Meanwhile, Arkin (played by Josh Stewart), who was unexpectedly able to escape from the Collector himself, but is coerced into helping the mercenaries hired by Elena’s father (portrayed by Christopher McDonald), led by Lucello (played by Lee Tergesen), to lead them into the killer’s lair. But even the tough mercenaries aren’t prepared fro the torture chamber the Collector has created, filled with deadly traps and mangled corpses. Arkin and the team must overcome their fears in order to save Elena in time before shes’ the killer’s next victim.
Dunstan had the perfect knowledge to expand the backstory of ‘The Collection’s mysterious, vicious serial killer he first introduced in his modestly successful, low-budget 2009 film, ‘The Collector.’ The scribe crafted reprehensible villains and killers in his previous horror writing experiences, including ‘Piranha 3DD,’ the ‘Feast’ trilogy and most notably, the final four ‘Saw’ sequels, who all reflected some form of moral corruptness that make audiences question the ideals of American society. While the ‘Saw’ series most cleverly and smartly created a meticulous antagonist who had a clearly defined reasoning for building his torture devices, ‘The Collection’ disappointingly failed to truly explore the motivations of the Collector. The lack of details explaining why the serial killer was driven to murder crowds on a massive level and why he saved the occasional victim for his live collection, combined with the unimaginative contraptions set to hurt those who unfortunately crossed his path, led to countless cliched attacks.
While ‘The Collection’ superficially appears to be an assortment of unoriginal contraptions meant to torture victims, as seen in the ‘Saw’ series, Arkin does has a clearly defined motive to stop the Collector once and for all. Not only does he want to protect himself and his family, as first seen in ‘The Collector,’ he does begin to feel a sense of guilt over not saving Elena when she’s first kidnapped. While Arkin does acknowledge his faults throughout the sequel, Elena is disappointingly portrayed as a typical victim with no extraordinary will or determination to live or fight.
Fitzpatrick portrayed Elena as only wanting to survive, as to not create any more grief for her father after the death of her mother when she was a child. The opening scene that depicts Elena and her father bonding after her mother’s funeral seems to be meant to establish the close bond the two subsequently form, but the adult Elena seems disconnected from her father and life. For the majority of the film, Elena also doesn’t seem to fully comprehend the consequences of her actions, or appreciate people trying to save her, such as Lucello and his mercenaries putting their own lives at risk to protect her. Elena also doesn’t see the potential of Arkin being able to redeem his past criminal behavior by leading Lucello into the hotel, and only blames him for not saving her when she was kidnapped. The lack of true character development of the lead protagonist unfortunately doesn’t provide empathy among many of those trying to save her.
While ‘The Collection’ lacks true character development needed for the characters to relate to the audience and each other, experienced horror production designer Graham ‘Grace’ Walker created a memorable, run-down hotel where the Collector killed and stored his victims. From the blood spattered red boxes the Collector used to hold his victims to the large fish tanks that hold their body parts to the eerily structured mannequins used to represent the horrors he unleashed on people, Walker truly captured the essence of the killer’s determination to hurt others. Each room in the building is also cleverly decorated in different themes, which shows the Collector’s originality and thoughts into making his victims suffer.
While co-writer/director Dunstan, along with frequent collaborator and fellow scribe Patrick Melton, have created memorable horror characters together in their previous screenplays, the two unfortunately failed to create a developed premise or serial killer in ‘The Collection,’.’ With the lack of explanation about the killer’s motivates and background and an emotionally void protagonist in Elena, the film seemed to be a vehicle mainly created to increase shock value and feature an endless stream of torturous killings. The main saving characteristic in the action horror thriller is Walker’s detailed and extravagant maze the Collector used to capture and torture his victims.
Written by: Karen Benardello